Drank too much? Only time really helps | VailDaily.com

Drank too much? Only time really helps

Staff Reports

A gallon of coffee won’t help if you party too much on New Year’s Eve.Forget splashing your face with cold water. Go head, walk back and forth, take a thousand deep breaths, an ice-cold shower, wave your hands above your head.Nothing in folklore’s medicine chest will get rid of that alcohol.You’ve heard the riddle. Give a drunk six cups of coffee and what do you get? A wide-awake drunk.Time is the only cure, because: Alcohol gets absorbed into the blood from the stomach and small intestine. In a heartbeat, the blood reaches your brain, and you begin to feel the alcohol. The lungs do get rid of a tiny amount of alcohol in each exhaled breath.That’s the basis for the Breathalyzer and other roadside sobriety tests for drunken driving. The urine also carries away tiny amounts.But most alcohol disappears in &quotmetabolism,&quot the process in which enzymes in the stomach, liver, and other organs break down food and drugs into simpler compounds.The liver gets rid of about 80 percent of the alcohol in each drink. Its main alcohol-destroying enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), kicks off a process that eventually changes alcohol into carbon dioxide and water.Alcohol, however, is absorbed faster than it can be metabolized.Food in the stomach can slow down absorption. That’s why people who drink on an empty stomach get drunk fast. People who drink with meals absorb alcohol three times more slowly than on an empty stomach.Nothing, however, can speed up the work of ADH and other enzymes that destroy alcohol. They can process only a certain amount of alcohol per hour, regardless of the amount consumed.Sex also is a factor.Women drink with two strikes against them. They both absorb and metabolize alcohol differently from men. After consuming the same amount of alcohol as a man in the time, a woman ends up with a higher BAC. That’s why women get drunk faster, and have a higher risk of liver disease, heart muscle damage, and other bad effects of alcohol abuse.ADH is a major reason, according to recent scientific findings. The alcohol-destroying enzyme is found in the stomach lining, as well as the liver. Women have lower levels of ADH in the stomach, so that more alcohol in each drink gets absorbed into the blood.Since there is no cure, prevention is best.Avoiding intoxication involves a fine balancing act, which depends on gender, body weight, and other personal traits.Consume faster than your body can metabolize, and you’ll face alcohol’s familiar medical, legal, and other problems.One rule of thumb is to limit consumption to less than one regular-sized drink each hour.The basis: It takes a typical 150-pound male an hour to metabolize the alcohol in one standard drink. That’s 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, all of which contain the same amount of alcohol.By Michael WoodsScripps Howard News Service

Support Local Journalism