A person's blood alcohol level (BAL) - also referred to as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) - indicates the amount of alcohol in their system. There are four factors that are the most important in determining how alcohol affects you or your friends. Understanding these factors can help you stay safe as well as help you understand how intoxicated a friend may be.
Women are affected by alcohol more so than men. Generally, women are smaller, have a higher percentage of body fat, and have less of the enzyme in their body that breaks down alcohol.
Given similar amounts of alcohol consumed, smaller people get more intoxicated than bigger people. However, your body fat percentage plays a role. The higher your body fat percentage, the more you will be affected by alcohol.
3. Drinking Rate
How fast you drink can greatly influence the effect of alcohol on your system. Think of your body like a funnel, no matter how fast you pour liquid into the funnel, it will only come out the bottom at a certain rate. If you pour too much, the funnel (your body) can overflow (alcohol poisoning). On average, it takes roughly 20 minutes for alcohol to get into your system once you drink it. It takes roughly 45-60 minutes for each standard drink to be removed from your body.
The following all contain the same amount (0.5 ounce) of pure ethyl alcohol and are considered a standard drink:
- 12 oz. standard beer
- 10 oz. of most microbrews
- 8 oz. malt liquor
- 4-5 oz. table wine
- 2.5 oz. of fortified wine (i.e. Mad Dog)
- 1.25 oz. of 80 proof hard liquor
- 1.0 oz. of 100 proof hard liquor
- .75 oz. of 151 proof hard liquor (i.e. Bacardi 151)
- .50 oz. of 180 proof hard liquor (i.e. Everclear)
If you drink, keep to the ORANGE level
.02 - .03 BAL: Slight euphoria and loss of shyness, minimal loss of coordination, decreased reaction time.
.04 - .06 BAL: Relaxation, lower inhibitions, some impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of awareness.
Be careful of the BLUE level
.07 - .09 BAL: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, judgment and self-control.
.10 - .12 BAL: Significant impairment of motor coordination, judgment, balance, vision, hearing and
.13 - .15 BAL: Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control, blurred vision, loss of balance, anxiety,
perception is severely impaired.
.16 - .19 BAL: Nausea and more anxiety, appears as a “sloppy drunk.”
Keep out of the RED level
.20 BAL: Disoriented, needs help to stand or walk, nausea and vomiting, black out is possible.
.21 - .29 BAL: Mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired, risk serious injury.
.30 - .34 BAL: Stupor, may pass out, hard to awaken.
.35+ BAL: Coma and/ or death is possible.