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Alcohol use is an addictive substance that can lead to alcohol use disorder, and even premature death. Alcohol use disorder can result in negative health consequences, and even an individual  experiencing an overdose. In 2019, approximately 14.1 million individuals met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. (1) In 2021, the number of individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder increased to approximately 29.5 million individuals. (2) Approximately 1 in 5 adults living within the United States, ages 20 to 49 , died due to excessive alcohol use in 2022. (3) Some who engage in alcohol use may experience negative side effects immediately following alcohol use. This may cause them to choose to stop their alcohol use and seek substance use treatment.

At Guardian Recovery, we offer evidence-based treatment, psychoeducation, and therapeutic interventions to help those experiencing alcohol use and other substance use disorders. Offering dual diagnosis treatment for those experiencing mental health and substance use disorders simultaneously, we can provide you or a loved one with necessary tools needed for long-term sobriety. Contact us today to begin your road to recovery.

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The Importance of Assessing Alcohol Tolerance

Alcohol intolerance is a genetic condition that causes those who engage in alcohol use unwanted, immediate side effects. (4) This genetic condition causes the body to not be able to break down alcohol properly. Specifically, the enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH2) which is responsible for breaking down alcohol through the body, does not function effectively. (5) This causes the triggering of alcohol intolerance symptoms.

Symptoms associated with alcohol intolerance include: (6)

  • Flushing in the face
  • Headache
  • Hot sensation or feeling
  • Stuffy nose
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal issues

How Do You Know if You Have an Alcohol Intolerance?

Genetic testing is the only way to determine if an individual is experiencing alcohol intolerance. This genetic testing can be conducted at a medical facility by a healthcare professional, or at an individual’s private home. In some cases, a physician can diagnose an individual with alcohol intolerance based on their symptoms and if this condition is included in their family medical history. (7)

How Home Alcohol Tolerance Tests Work

In order to perform an at home alcohol intolerance test, an at home kit must be provided by a physician or from a company that specializes in this form of genetic testing. This genetic test involves collecting samples of saliva, blood, and tissue. (8) Home alcohol tolerance tests are typically just samples of saliva collected on a cotton swab. Results are sent to professionals who analyze the samples.

Benefits of Home Alcohol Tolerance Testing

Being able to take an at home alcohol tolerance test makes it convenient for individuals to be able to determine if they are experiencing this genetic condition. Additionally, at home alcohol tests are more affordable than those conducted at a medical facility. (9) At home tests make genetic testing accessible for those who may not have had access otherwise.

Testing conducted at a medical facility is done so in more sterile conditions, minimizing cross-contamination and ensuring more valid results. (10) This may be why some may opt and choose to receive their genetic testing at a medical facility.

If you, or someone you love, choose to use an at home alcohol intolerance test, it is important to ensure that: (11)

  • The company manufacturing the test is reputable.
  • The tests are listed to be reliable.
  • The test being used is specifically for genetic testing for alcohol intolerance and not an allergy or food intolerance.

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Factors Affecting Alcohol Tolerance

Different genes can impact how an individual’s metabolism breaks down alcohol. An individual’s ethnicity is also a factor that can affect alcohol intolerance. This is because certain genetic variants impact certain races and ethnicities more than others.

Can You Suddenly Develop Alcohol Intolerance?

Since Alcohol intolerance symptoms develop immediately after an individual consumes alcohol, and is a genetic condition, individuals are born with it. Though they may not receive an official diagnosis until later in life.

Alcohol sensitivity can develop as an individual ages. Research indicates that older individuals begin to feel the effects of intoxication quicker, when compared to younger adults, due to a decrease in their tolerance. (12)

Interpreting Results From Home Alcohol Tolerance Tests

It is often recommended that an individual’s symptoms are reviewed by a healthcare professional, as alcohol intolerance can be mistaken for an allergic reaction to alcohol. Research has found that those of East Asian descent have more of a another enzyme which breaks down alcohol, known as ADH1B*2, which is not a cause of alcohol intolerance, but a cause of alcohol metabolization impairments. (13) Since confusion can occur, it is beneficial to have the results interpreted by a doctor once samples are collected, processed, and reviewed by a laboratory.

Home Alcohol Tolerance Tests & Responsible Drinking

If you experience symptoms of alcohol intolerance, regardless of the severity, you should avoid alcohol use. Research has found that those who experience mild alcohol intolerance symptoms may get used to the symptoms. If they continue to engage in alcohol use, this can cause a buildup of acetaldehyde, which accumulates when alcohol is not broken down properly. (14) Acetaldehyde is extremely toxic to humans and can increase an individual’s chances of developing certain cancers. Those who do engage in alcohol use should do so responsibly, and stop if they experience symptoms related to alcohol intolerance.

The only treatment for alcohol intolerance is refraining from alcohol use. At home alcohol intolerance tests work by collecting a sample of skin cells located inside of the cheeks and securing it before sending it to a laboratory.

When to See a Doctor

Alcohol intolerance symptoms are typically not dangerous and usually cease on their own. However, it is important to contact your doctor if you experience asthma in addition to alcohol intolerance symptoms in order to properly manage and treat your asthma. It is also recommended to get tested for food allergies if you experience alcohol intolerance.

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Alcohol and Other Substance Use Disorder Treatment

At Guardian Recovery, we offer comprehensive treatment options for those experiencing various substance use disorders. Providing alcohol specific detoxification services, we can aid those beginning their recovery journey do so in a safe and medically supervised environment. With medication assisted treatment, we are dedicated to offering a wide range of treatment options for all severity of substance use disorders. Contact us today to speak with one of our Treatment Advisors who will help guide you through our simple admission process. A complimentary psychological assessment will be provided in order to determine which treatment option best suits your specific needs. Ask about our free, no obligation  insurance benefits check to determine which of our treatment options are discovered by your health insurance plan. Start your road to recovery at Guardian Recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/NIAAA_Alcohol_FactsandStats_102020_0.pdf
  2. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/01/health/drinking-deaths-us-study-wellness/index.html
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests#about
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests#about
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests#about
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests#how-to-get-testing
  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests
  10. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests
  12. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/older-adults
  13. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-intolerance-tests#how-to-get-testing
  14. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/alcohol-flush-signals-increased-cancer-risk-among-east-asians

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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