Criminal Defense & Social Security Disability Law

4 surprising factors that can increase your intoxication


Several factors, such as tobacco and sugar, will have an effect on the way the body absorbs alcohol.

Many people are aware that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to feeling its intoxicating effects quicker. However, there are several other factors that can affect a Fairfax resident’s blood alcohol concentration, and they may be surprising.

Before delving into these factors, it is important to have an understanding of what absorption rate means when discussing alcohol. When alcohol is consumed, it finds its way through to digestive system to the small intestine. That is where it is absorbed and moves into the blood stream. The faster someone absorbs alcohol, the more intoxicated he or she will become. Therefore, slowing the absorption rate – such as having food in the stomach – can help keep a blood alcohol concentration low.

Keeping this in mind, the following are factors that can affect the body’s absorption rate:

1. Diet soda

NPR recently reported on a study from a professor with Northern Kentucky University that analyzed how sugar affects the absorption rate of alcohol. Researchers compared the breath alcohol concentration of people who mix alcohol with regular soda and those who mix it with a diet drink.

At its peak, the breath alcohol concentration for people who had regular soda was at 0.077, and the same number for those with diet soda was at 0.091. This occurs because sugar helps to slow the absorption rate of the alcohol. For note, in Virginia, the legal limit for people driving a car after drinking is 0.08.

2. Type of alcohol

Not all alcoholic beverages are the same. A study published in the National Institutes of Health found that people who fast will have a higher blood alcohol concentration after drinking a vodka and tonic than they would if they drank beer or wine. This is due to the fact that vodka has a higher concentration of ethanol, speeding up the absorption rate.

3. Tobacco

A 1991 study published in the British Medical Journal discovered that smoking can actually slow down gastric emptying, which in turn slows the absorption rate of alcohol. Certainly, there have been a number of proven negative effects associated with cigarettes. However, the study’s results determined that the peak alcohol concentration in people who smoke was lower than in those who do not.

4. Gender

Lastly, it generally matters whether the person consuming alcohol is male or female. Many people believe this is due to body mass. While size and weight can affect absorption, biological differences between the genders do as well. Women do not have a high concentration of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol, whereas men do. Also, some experts believe that hormones such as estrogen could affect the way that the liver processes alcohol.

Knowing and understanding these factors can keep people in Virginia safe and on the right side of the law. Anyone with questions should consult with a DUI defense attorney.