The Anatomy of a DUI – How Alcohol Distributes Within the Body

In my last blog post regarding the Anatomy of a DUI (August 17, 2015) I provided a brief overview of how alcohol is absorbed into the body.  This article will focus on how the consumed alcohol distributes throughout the body.    

31493323_mDistribution: Once the alcohol moves from the stomach into the small intestine, it will absorb into the blood.  Thereafter the alcohol is distributed throughout the body by the blood. Alcohol has an affinity for water. The blood will carry the alcohol to the various tissues and organs of the body, and will deposit the alcohol in them in proportion to their water contents.

Brain tissue has a fairly high water content, so the brain receives a substantial share of the distributed alcohol. Muscle tissue also has a reasonably high water content and thus also gets alcohol.  Fat tissue however contains very little water; thus very little alcohol will be deposited in the drinker’s body fat. This is one factor that differentiates alcohol from certain other drugs, notably PCP and THC, which are very soluble in fat.

Alcohol’s affinity for water, and its lack of affinity for fat, helps explain an important difference in the way alcohol affects women and men. Pound for pound, the typical female’s body contains a good deal less water than does the typical man’s. This is because women have additional fatty tissue, designed in part to protect a child in the womb. The typical male body is about 68% water, and the typical female body is only about 55%. Thus, when a woman drinks, she has less fluid — pound for pound — in which to distribute the alcohol. If a woman and a man who weigh exactly the same drank exactly the same amount of alcohol under the same circumstances, her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) would climb higher than his. When we couple this to the fact that the average woman is smaller than the average man, it becomes apparent that a given amount of alcohol will cause a higher BAC in a woman than it usually will in a man.

In the next part of this article, I will discuss how the body eliminates alcohol.  Stay tuned… and until then, be safe.