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Alcohol metabolism The genes for alcohol – ALDH2 and ADH1B – encode a protein involved in its metabolism. Alcohol is metabolised by an enzyme in our liver cells known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH1B). ADH1B breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, and then another enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) rapidly breaks down acetaldehyde into acetate. When acetaldehyde is not rapidly converted to acetate the results immediately show the body’s sensitivity to alcohol through a rapid increase in blood flow to the skin of the face, neck, and chest, rapid heartbeat, headache, nausea, and extreme drowsiness.