This study examines the influence of ascorbic acid pretreatment on ethanol clearance, toxicity, and behavioral impairment after an acute dose of ethanol in humans. Ascorbic acid or a placebo was given to 20 healthy male subjects for 2 weeks before ethanol consumption. The dose of ethanol was 0.95 gm/kg body weight and was consumed during a 2 1/2-hour period. Thirty minutes after ethanol consumption, motor coordination and intellectual function were assessed by Goldberg's "Finger-Finger" and "Serial Sevens" tests. In addition, color discrimination was measured with the use of the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Color Test. Hourly blood samples were taken for 10 hours after ethanol consumption to measure serum triglyceride levels, blood lactate/pyruvate ratios, and serum enzymes. Blood ethanol clearance was also determined. Ethanol consumption elevated serum triglyceride levels and blood lactate/pyruvate ratios and impaired performance of the behavioral tests but did not alter serum enzyme levels. Ascorbic acid pretreatment resulted in significant enhancement in blood ethanol clearance and an increase in serum triglyceride levels after ethanol consumption in half of the subjects. Ascorbic acid pretreatment also resulted in improved motor coordination and color discrimination after ethanol consumption in half of the subjects. Ascorbic acid pretreatment did not influence elevated blood lactate/pyruvate ratios or impaired intellectual function.