The time required for ethanol to distribute between the systemic circu
lation and the rest of the body water results in an 'overshoot' of the
blood-alcohol concentration (BAG) during the first 30 min after intra
venous infusion. To investigate whether a similar distribution phenome
non occurs when ethanol is given by the oral route, we compared BACs a
fter intravenous infusion and oral intake under strictly controlled co
nditions by giving a 0.4 g/kg dose of ethanol over 15 min to six fasti
ng female volunteers. The results show an 'overshoot' in three volunte
ers who had the shortest time to BAC(max), which indicates rapid absor
ption, and the time-course was similar to the distribution phase seen
during the intravenous experiments. We conclude that BAC is sometimes
higher than expected shortly after alcohol has been ingested rapidly.
This finding can probably be explained by the fact that ethanol is dis
tributed more slowly throughout the total body water than it is absorb
ed from the gut.