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OUI issues: Absorption, metabolism and your blood alcohol level

Many people don't realize how alcohol will affect them when they drink. Some believe that everyone will face the same effects, but this isn't the case at all. Instead, everyone deals with alcohol differently due to their own metabolism. (You can think of your metabolism as your body's ability to process alcohol, calories or other things it takes in.)

It's common to have a friend who says they can handle their alcohol and another who knows they can't after a certain point. The latter type of person may be referred to as a "lightweight" or may consider himself or herself sensitive. What about you?

If you are heading out for a night of drinking, remember that there are several things, including metabolism, size and gender, that can impact your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It's important to understand that what gets you to the legal driving limit won't be the same as another person.

You can't go by how you feel

When you are drinking, you can't gauge your BAC by how you feel. There is a chance that you won't realize how impaired you truly are. This could be disastrous if you decide to drive yourself home since you might get into a wreck or be pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.

Even if you count your drinks, you still might not have the correct information to determine how the alcohol is affecting your body and your brain. Typically, women will be affected much more quickly than men. In general, thinner people will notice the effects faster than heavier people.

The amount of food that you have eaten can also help determine how your body metabolizes alcohol. It is always a good idea to eat before and while you consume alcohol.

Absorption and metabolization are different

Alcohol is absorbed by the body quickly. Once you have ingested it, the body takes a while to metabolize it, to burn it. A person who weighs 150 pounds may metabolize alcohol at a rate of about .01 percent per hour but can easily absorb twice that amount per hour.

The per-hour burnoff rate for alcohol is thought to be .016 percent BAC, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of one average drink. For a smaller female, drinking two to three drinks per hour might result in a BAC of .08 percent, the legal limit for most drivers, but it could take the average male multiple drinks per hour to reach this level.

Better safe than sorry

If you are going to drink alcohol, it is always a good idea to have a way home that doesn't involve you driving. It can be hard to know with certainty what will push you past the limit. If something does happen and you are accused of OUI or DUI, you need to consider your defense options right away.

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