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The stink of alcoholics
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The stink of alcoholics

My boyfriend came back last night after a night out with friends smelling like an alcoholic who’s been drinking for a month without stopping. The thing is that he has not been drinking that much, ok he was obviously not sober and he took more than usual, but he was still standing firm on his feet.

He is Japanese and I know it’s something with his metabolism. I hear that smell very often on the trains in Tokyo on Friday night. In Europe however that smell from people is very rare, I only heard it from alcoholics living on the streets, those that are never sober.

I’m not bothered by my bf’s drinking at all, he does not drink much normally, but I am very bothered by the smell. It wasn’t the smell of alcohol but rather some kind of nasty sweet aldehyde-type of smell. The whole house stank, I couldn’t sleep.

I read up on alcohol metabolism, and it seems Asians might have a problem metabolizing acetaldehyde. Is that what it is? Thing is he does not have alcohol flush reaction (my grandma had it, so I’m quite sure it’s not it). Could it be that his body stops breaking down alcohol properly after a while, and that ‘while’ is much earlier than in Europeans?

What is this smell? It was very very specific, some simple chemical substance that I heard before in chemical labs as well. If I could identify it, I would find it in a chemical lab and let him smell it so that he can at least understand what is bothering me so much.

And lastly a crazy question. Is there anything that he can take to boost his metabolism to avoid that horrible stink?
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You might be on track-- I'm trying to remember the exact mechanism involved.  Asian's do have lower activity of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, and they build up amounts of acetaldehyde that make them feel sick.  I cannot remember the exact mechanism from biochem class.  

On the other hand, the way you describe the odor sounds like products called 'ketones', which cause a sweet odor during diabetic ketoacidosis.  Ketones are formed under certain conditions when alcohol is ingested;  this is taken from Wikipedia:

In alcoholic ketoacidosis, alcohol causes dehydration and blocks the first step of gluconeogenesis. The body is unable to synthesize enough glucose to meet its needs, thus creating an energy crisis resulting in fatty acid metabolism, and ketone body formation.

If he is getting the smell from ketones as described above, the process would be blocked by having adequate amounts of glucose in one's system.  Maybe he can change from diet coke to regular coke to mix with the rum;  maybe he can keep hydrated with gatorade or another glucose (dextrose) drink as the night goes on.  Let us know if it works!
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