Alcohol Tolerance

Alcohol Tolerance

Whoever tests your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) needs to know about the many variables that can affect an accurate reading. Each body will absorb alcohol in a different way. If you were tested for BAC in a DUI and the test did not include the below details, the test results could be contested in a court of law, with help from your Orange County DUI lawyer.

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Regular Drinking

When someone drinks regularly, their tolerance to alcohol increases, an Orange County DUI lawyer confirms. Compared to non-drinkers, regular drinkers are more desensitized to the same amount of alcohol. This means that regular drinkers would need to take in more alcohol to feel the effects of the drug (and yes, alcohol is a drug). Drinkers and non-drinkers experience different effects of alcohol, too. For non-drinkers, alcohol is known as a sedative that slows the metabolism. But alcohol may act like a stimulant for heavy drinkers.

Some alcoholics can tolerate blood alcohol levels that might be fatal in a non-drinker. In a study of 54 drinkers with blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.20%, about one-quarter of the subjects exhibited no signs of clinical intoxication. In a similar study evaluating 32 people, more than half showed little evidence of intoxication.

The performance of alcohol tolerant drinkers does not correlate with their BAC, even if they are impaired. Frequent drinkers and those with alcohol tolerance at BACs from 0.08% to 0.10% have a lower likelihood of accidents than non-drinkers with the same BAC.

Why Is There Such a Big Difference?

Why are drinkers so different from non-drinkers? Several theories relate to the body’s cell function:

  • It is possible that repeated exposure to alcohol makes cell membranes rigid so that the walls contain more cholesterol and the cells hold more saturated fat. Those factors change the way alcohol is processed in the body.
  • Drinking may impact the way that sodium and potassium transmit electrical impulses in nerve cells.
  • Drinking may also affect neurotransmitters like serotonin that send nerve cell impulses.
  • Drinking may change dehydrogenase function, which is an enzyme that affects the body’s alcohol metabolism. If long periods of alcohol consumption increase enzyme activity it may compensate for alcohol’s effects.

If you are involved in a DUI case, you need representation that can help you through the complexities of the science and the law. To speak with a knowledgeable local Orange County DUI lawyer, call attorneys the Law Office of Mike Coffey Attorney at Law& the Law Office of Mike Coffey Attorney at Lawat (800) 706-7888.


Davis AR, Lipson AH, Central Nervous System Tolerance to High Blood Alcohol Levels, Med J Aust 1986 Jan 6;144(1):9-12.

Borkenstein, R, Crowther, R, Shumate, R, Ziel, W, Zylman, R, The Role of the Drinking Driver in Traffic Accidents, 1964, Allen Dale (ed.) Department of Police Administration, Indiana University.

Perper JA, Twerski A, Wienand JW, Tolerance at High Blood Alcohol Concentrations: A Study of 110 Cases and Review of the Literature, Forensic Sci 1986 Jan; 31(1):212-221, p. 213.