Why do some individuals handle more alcohol than others?

Why do some individuals handle more alcohol than others?

Last Reviewed : 12/18/2020
Why do some individuals handle more alcohol than others?

Alcohol is one of the oldest addictions known to mankind. But it is also a fact that some people become intoxicated easier than others.

Here are some facts regarding the metabolism of alcohol. It depends on two enzymes:

  • Alcohol dehydrogenase (converts alcohol to aldehyde)
  • Aldehyde dehydrogenase (responsible for the oxidationof aldehyde)


The aldehydeis the main culprit to be blamed when you become intoxicated. It is responsible for the ill effects of alcohol. The faster the accumulation, the greater the chances of becoming intoxicated quicker. Delay in its metabolism also leads to the ill effects of alcohol.

The enzyme levels and the activity of the enzymes differamong individuals. These differences are the main reason why some individuals become intoxicated faster and others slower. The activity of the enzymes depends on the following characteristics:

  1. Age: Intoxication will be less among those individuals who stay hydrated. Hence young people will not be intoxicated easily when compared to the older generation who are almost alwaysdehydrated. They become intoxicated quicker.
  2. Sex: Intoxication depends on the concentration of body fat also. Fat tends to hold alcohol. Females usually have more body fat than males and less body water. So females more likely become intoxicated easier.
  3. Race or ethnicity: Asians have genetic mutations in their genes related to the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. Thismutation makes them intoxicated quicker even with small amounts of alcohol.
  4. Physical condition (e.g.,weight, fitness level): Physical Fitness, the statusof hydration, and fat concentration also affect the alcohol concentration in the body. Those who are physically fit will not become intoxicated easily.
  5. Amount of food consumed before drinking: Presence of food in the stomach inhibits the absorption of alcohol. Those who consume alcohol after eating will become intoxicated slower. Drinking on an empty stomachwill lead to the effectsof alcohol much faster.
  6. How quickly the alcohol was consumed: Drinking fast or binge-drinking leads to accumulation of alcohol in the bloodstreamfaster which will be beyond the capability of the liver to metabolize it. If you drink quickly,you will get a stronger effect than if you drink the same amount over a longer period. Those who don’t drink very often will be more affected than regular drinkers. People who drink regularly get usedto the effects of alcohol.
  7. Use of drugs or prescription medicines: Using some drugs will alter the metabolism of alcohol and vice versa. Hence it is always better to check with the physician before having alcohol if you are on any drugs. Medications like narcotics, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates cause drowsiness. When people drink alcohol while taking these medications, they are at higher risk of passing out or overdosing.


Hence, knowing your current condition while drinking alcohol is important. One glass of alcohol may have different effects on your body depending on when and how you drink it. Limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for males or one drink a day for females is very important to avoid the harmful effects of alcohol.

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