Tolerance refers to a person’s ability to consume higher amounts of alcohol (or another substance) than other individuals before feeling its effects or appearing intoxicated. Conversely, an individual with a low tolerance requires less alcohol to experience its effects or appear drunk. Thus, the development of tolerance can encourage greater alcohol consumption for those who continue to engage in it, contributing to alcohol dependence, and can cause adverse health effects.
Does Drinking More Alcohol Increase Your Tolerance?
Gender, weight, biology, genetics, drinking patterns, and how many alcoholic beverages are regularly consumed play a role in tolerance. Regarding the latter, this means that drinking more alcohol can increase alcohol tolerance. Moreover, the body can be accustomed to increased alcohol use, resulting in more rapid alcohol metabolism. Those who drink alcohol regularly can seem less intoxicated than others who have consumed a comparable amount of alcohol.
Is a High Alcohol Tolerance Genetic?
Genetic factors can influence alcohol tolerance. Low tolerance is produced by a natural lack of an enzyme known as acetaldehyde dehydrogenase for some individuals. When most people consume alcohol, this enzyme helps metabolize it. To explain further, the liver converts alcohol to acetaldehyde, a substance that can induce cell damage—another enzyme known as ALDH2 assists in converting acetaldehyde to acetic acid, which is non-toxic.
For those with alcohol intolerance, a genetic mutation makes ALDH2 less active or inactive. As a result, the body is not able to convert acetaldehyde to acetic acid. Acetaldehyde then begins to accumulate in a person’s blood and tissues, resulting in unpleasant symptoms.
Types of Alcohol Tolerance
Types of alcohol tolerance include the following:
Metabolic tolerance results from a more rapid elimination of alcohol from the body. This form of tolerance increases with long-term alcohol use. Chronic and excessive drinkers can eliminate alcohol two to four times as fast as moderate drinkers. Therefore, they need more significant amounts of alcohol to maintain the same blood alcohol concentration.
Environment-dependent tolerance is an accelerated tolerance of alcohol’s effects when continually consumed in a familiar environment. Environment-dependent tolerance is why some people can consume more alcohol and exhibit a lesser degree of intoxication in a familiar environment compared to a newer environment.
Learned tolerance is behavior that compensates for alcohol’s impairing effects. Over time, individuals can develop the ability to improve their control of motor skills while drinking alcohol, giving the appearance of higher alcohol tolerance.
Acute alcohol tolerance develops during a single exposure to alcohol. This means that alcohol-induced impairment is more significant when measured soon after beginning alcohol use than when measured later in the drinking episode, even if the BAC is the same at both times. Acute alcohol tolerance can lead to a drinker consuming more alcohol, wrongfully assuming that they are less intoxicated than they genuinely are.
Adverse Effects of High Alcohol Tolerance
A high tolerance to alcohol can give a misleading impression of just how intoxicated a person is. One may think that someone who is not stumbling or slurring their words is less impaired. However, one should not assume that individuals with a higher tolerance are better able to perform tasks that require focus, concentration, and reaction time as if they had not drunk alcohol. The amount of alcohol ingested still affects them, although it may not appear as such.
One should definitely not assume that a person with a higher alcohol tolerance won’t experience any long-term effects of excessive drinking. On the contrary, they are still at risk for health complications related to how much alcohol they have consumed in a lifetime, including liver cirrhosis, brain disease, pancreatitis, various cancers, etc.
Getting Professional Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
If you or someone you love exhibits a high tolerance for alcohol and is finding it challenging to quit drinking, professional treatment should be sought as soon as possible.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer integrated, comprehensive programs to help those who need it most break free from substance abuse and begin to cultivate new, more fulfilling lives. Our approach includes a wide variety of evidence-based therapies and activities, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, relapse prevention, art and music therapy, and much more.