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It takes about five minutes for the effects of a drink to be felt. When you drink, alcohol passes from the stomach through to the small intestines, where it starts to get absorbed into the blood stream.

The amount of alcohol in the blood, called Blood Alcohol Concentration or Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), is measured as a percentage which can be found out by testing your urine, breath or blood.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol travels through the system affecting every cell that contains water – which is the majority of them. The liver will start to release an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which breaks down the alcohol at the rate of approximately one unit an hour. 

Alcohol stimulates the brain cells and adrenal glands which can give you an initial feeling of relaxation, making you feel friendlier and more open. However, it is important to remember that alcohol is actually a depressant, which means it slows the nervous system down, affecting the speed that you process information, and your judgement.

Some of the main factors affecting how you process alcohol are:

• The amount you drink, and how quickly
• Your general state of health and whether you’re tired, stressed or depressed
• The health of your liver
• Whether you’re taking certain medications
• Your size and weight
• Your age and gender
• Food and non-alcohol beverages consumed before and while drinking

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