Common sense and experience tells an individual that drinking will have different effects on the body under different conditions and at different times. But how do you know whether alcohol will affect someone else at a given time or under different conditions? The most well known factors include whether there is eating before drinking, differences in body mass and weight, how fast a person drinks, and the concentration of alcohol in the drink.
There are some differences between people that can give some clues about unequal odds of one person getting drunker than another person. Gender, age, mood, companionship, relationship with alcohol, and location will contribute to unequal results for different people.
The presence of food in the stomach is a major factor. Alcohol is a simple molecule that does not need to be processed before it gets into the bloodstream. When swallowed, it goes directly into the stomach, then to the small intestine where the action really goes on. When food is present, alcohol absorption slows down. The process slows down even more when there is a lot of fat in the food. This is why it is nothing new to tell someone to eat a serious meal before drinking. The higher fat content in most appetizers and pub or bar snacks is also helpful.
The nature of all alcohol is a contributing factor to how a person will feel and behave when drunk. Alcohol is a depressant that can make one person complain that they feel bad while another person has an elevated mood.
Some alcohols and alcoholic preparations behave differently in different human bodies. Alcohols have different “proofs”, or proportion of pure alcohol. Alcohols may also have “cogeners”, which are chemicals that add color or flavor. The “cogeners” can be as toxic as the alcohol and lead to the differences in hangovers that heavy drinkers suffer from the next day.
Mixed drinks will have even more sugar, fruits, or “cogeners” that can aggravate various allergies or individual intolerance. Drinks like champagne, beer or fizzy mixes contain gas that helps the alcohol get into the bloodstream more effectively. Some of the gas is actually breathed in, giving the feeling that the champagne is going “straight to the head”.
Alcohol is delivered through various means and through various promotions. The highly controversial AWOL alcohol inhaling machine allows the substance to be inhaled into the lungs for a more direct delivery to the bloodstream. This method is so bad that some governments propose to ban it.
Location and setting is a major factor. People may be more likely to drink “shots” or to “chug” alcoholic drinks in rapid order at bars and parties that push that type of consumption. The same individuals may sip more carefully at a formal event where the boss is present. Even people who do not want a drink are more likely to do so in a pub or bar at night than they would in a restaurant in the middle of the day.
Experience with alcohol is a major factor. A person who is new to alcohol, or who rarely drinks will have less tolerance and emotional preparedness for the effects of alcohol. New and rare drinkers will be more likely to bottom out from the same amount of alcohol that has another person behaving quite functionally.
Amazingly, according to BBC News, smoking decreases the absorption of alcohol, which leads to smokers either drinking more in order to get drunk; or it leads to smokers getting less drunk in the first place.
The amount of blood and water in the body can affect the odds of getting drunk. Men apparently have a greater proportion of fluid in their bodies at 60% of their body weight. Women have a proportion of fluid that is about 55% of their body weight. According to Fluid Physiology 2.1, women and the obese have a lower overall fluid content because of the higher fat content in the body.
Given the same amount of alcohol, the taller or larger person will take longer to get drunk than the shorter or smaller person. The body fluid percentage decreases with age. Thus, given the same amount of alcohol, women, short people, the obese, and older individuals will have less overall body fluid and will possibly get drunk faster than men and younger people.
Age is also a factor because of the maturing or declining liver’s ability to process alcohol, according to TheSite.org.
Alcohol causes dehydration because it takes water for the body to metabolize the alcohol. There is wisdom to drinking plenty of water, not just before going to bed, but during the entire evening.
In the end, alcohol is an easily obtained substance that can elevate the mood and make the party roll. But it is not difficult to become addicted, then to require more alcohol in order to maintain the elevated mood. The very young can easily get into a state of binge, blackout and chronic alcoholism when they are convinced to drink in order to fit in, as an acceptable part of adulthood, or as egged on by people who are already disposed to heavy drinking as a way of life.