Alcohol Absorption, Distribution, and Elimination

When an individual drinks alcohol, about 20% of the alcohol is absorbed into the stomach and approximately 80% is absorbed into the small intestine.  Absorption is the process of alcohol entering the bloodstream where it is distributed throughout the body.  Unlike other things that we eat and drink, alcohol is not digested, but rather is absorbed unchanged directly into the stomach lining.   How quickly alcohol is absorbed is dependent upon a number of things, such as:

 

  • The type of alcoholic beverage - Alcohol mixed with a carbonated beverage will speed up absorption.

 

  • The concentration of the alcohol in the drink - The more concentrated, the faster absorption will occur.

 

  • Whether the individual has eaten or not - Food consumption slows alcohol absorption.

 

Absorption of alcohol can take anywhere from 30 minutes in the instance of one drinking a diluted drink on an empty stomach, to about two to six hours on a full stomach.  In addition, the contents in some alcoholic drinks such as beer act like food in the body and the absorption process is delayed.  As one drinks alcohol, his or her blood-alcohol content increases until it reaches a peak concentration, wherein it then begins to taper off.  Generally, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for a person to reach peak alcohol levels after he or she has stopped drinking