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Matthew Goldin & E Jane Marshall

In: The SAGE Handbook of Drug & Alcohol Studies Volume 2

Chapter 4: Alcohol: Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics

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Alcohol: Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics
Alcohol: Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics
Matthew GoldinE Jane Marshall

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is determined by the rate at which alcohol is absorbed, distributed, metabolised and excreted.


Alcohol is a small highly water soluble, but poorly lipid soluble molecule. However, like water, it has hydrophilic and lipophilic properties, and can thus pass easily into body fluids and across membranes into cells by simple passive diffusion (Feldman, Meyer and Quenzer, 1997; Cederbaum, 2012). Following oral ingestion alcohol is almost completely absorbed, and peak blood concentration is reached after 30–60 minutes. Absorption primarily occurs in the small intestine (80%), where absorption is rapid. A smaller proportion (20%) can also be absorbed, relatively slowly, from the stomach (Brick, 2004).

A number of factors are involved in the absorption ...

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