Drinking alcohol can cause a person to feel drunk. However, a person may take steps to help reduce their chances of becoming intoxicated during a night out.

When a person drinks alcohol, their body directly absorbs it into the blood, partially through the stomach but mainly from the small intestine. This causes a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to rise.

When BAC levels rise too much, a person becomes intoxicated, or drunk. Several different factors may affect how quickly a person’s BAC level rises.

This article offers tips on how to avoid getting drunk and when someone should consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The most effective way to prevent becoming intoxicated is to not consume alcohol at all. However, a person may not wish to abstain from drinking altogether. In this case, saying no to additional drinks may help.

The liver oxidizes, or breaks down, alcohol from the blood at a rate of roughly 0.5 ounces per hour. Having only one drink or spacing drinks out over the course of a few hours or during a meal may give a person’s liver a chance to clear the alcohol from their blood.

Certain risk factors play a role in how quickly a person’s body absorbs and filters out alcohol from the blood. They include:

  • Age: Children, adolescents, and older adults may be more at risk of harm from drinking alcohol.
  • Sex: Alcohol typically affects females faster than males.
  • How much food is in the stomach: If a person eats before drinking, their rate of alcohol absorption may slow down. However, this can also depend on how quickly their body turns food into energy.
  • Number of drinks a person has consumed: The more alcoholic drinks an individual has, the more likely they are to become intoxicated.
  • Certain medications: Some medications can interact with alcohol and cause a range of symptoms. A person should speak with their doctor about any medications they are taking and whether they should stop drinking while taking them.
  • Weight: Alcohol affects people with lower body weights more quickly.

If a person understands how alcohol affects them, this may help them make better decisions about how many drinks they can consume without getting drunk.

Additionally, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 defines drinking in moderation as around 2 or less drinks a day for males and 1 or less drinks per day for females. Staying within these limits may help a person avoid becoming intoxicated when drinking.

One way a person may be able to reduce the likelihood of becoming intoxicated is to alternate alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic drinks, such as water or fruit juice.

It is important to note that drinking water or other nonalcoholic beverages will not speed up the process of breaking down alcohol. However, taking a break from alcohol when drinking can help stop more of the substance from getting into a person’s bloodstream.

Some experts note that drinking alcohol with water or juice helps to slow the rate of absorption, while drinking it with carbonated, or fizzy, beverages may increase the rate of absorption.

Drinking slowly may have a similar effect to alternating with nonalcoholic drinks. When a person drinks slowly, it gives their liver more time to process the alcohol in their system.

This may also mean a person drinks fewer alcoholic beverages in total. People can drink more slowly by sipping, rather than downing or chugging, their alcoholic beverage.

Drinking on an empty stomach allows alcohol to pass directly into the bloodstream quickly, while eating before drinking slows the rate of alcohol absorption. Therefore, a person should consider eating a meal before drinking alcohol.

In a 2022 study, researchers investigated the perception of food and alcohol on both alcohol industry-funded websites and nonalcohol-industry-funded websites. The purpose of the study was to find out how different organizations spread information about eating food while drinking alcohol to the public.

They found limited, reliable evidence to suggest that adding food to the stomach limits the potential negative effects of alcohol. Additionally, they found that both types of websites may spread potentially false or misleading evidence surrounding food and how it impacts the effects of alcohol on a person’s body. This may encourage people to drink for longer periods of time.

While eating food may help slow alcohol absorption, a person should not use eating as a means or excuse to keep drinking beyond recommended levels, particularly if they want to avoid getting drunk.

The stomach and small intestine do not digest alcohol. Instead, alcohol absorbs directly into the bloodstream through these organs.

Taking shots may quickly elevate a person’s BAC levels. This is because spirits have high alcohol content, with many distilled spirits containing 40% alcohol. Additionally, people drink shots quickly, so this may also raise their BAC levels faster.

A person should speak with a doctor if they think that they or a loved one may be experiencing alcohol use disorder. A healthcare professional can provide support and recommend other resources that may help a person, such as counseling or support groups.

People should call 911 immediately if a person is showing signs of alcohol poisoning, such as:

Help is available

Seeking help for addiction may feel daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support.

If you believe that you or someone close to you is showing signs of addiction, you can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:

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A person can take steps to avoid getting drunk. Some methods include drinking in moderation, sipping drinks, and consuming food before or while drinking alcohol.

People should call 911 immediately if anyone is showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning. Additionally, a person should speak with a healthcare professional if they are concerned about their levels of alcohol consumption.