How the Body Eliminates Alcohol from the Bloodstream

Most people understand that the body works constantly to eliminate alcohol from the bloodstream, but fewer understand how and why this process takes place. There is nowhere in the body for alcohol to be stored, which is not true of other nutrients and substances which are typically ingested or imbibed. This means the body must immediately begin processing the alcohol and cease metabolizing anything else in the body until the alcohol has all been eliminated.

The process of alcohol elimination takes time, and every drinker’s body is different. The efficiency of the liver plays a large role in the rate at which alcohol can be metabolized, which is commonly referred to as ‘tolerance’. Your liver function is elevated by the repeated consumption of alcoholic beverages, but can also be easily limited by other factors. Whenever in doubt, it is important to make conservative estimates on your level of intoxication in order to avoid unwanted legal entanglements.

Methods of Elimination

The body has two means of eliminating alcohol from the body:

  • Excretion. Small amounts of alcohol, roughly 5% to 10% of the total consumed, can be directly eliminated from the body via urine, sweat, and breath. The alcohol which is eliminated as a gas or liquid through the breath is utilized by breathalyzers to assess an individual’s BAC.
  • Metabolism. The vast majority of alcohol that enters the body is metabolized in the liver through a process called oxidation. The liver breaks the toxin down into water and carbon dioxide, which is then dissolved through the bloodstream and eliminated from the body by the lungs. The effectiveness of an individual’s liver can vary greatly from person to person.

The factors which affect the efficiency of alcohol elimination are complex and variable, and cannot be easily predicted with any chart or rule of thumb. Whenever you intend to drink, make arrangements for transportation that do not put you at risk of legal complications.

Contact Us

If you have questions about alcohol oxidation and how your body’s ability to process alcohol can affect you legally, contact the experienced and knowledgeable Dallas DWI defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark T. Lassiter by calling (214) 845-7007.


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