Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC):

Your BAC level measures the amount of alcohol in your blood, therefore traveling through your body to every organ, including your brain. In its simplest form, calculating a person's BAC level is based on how much alcohol went into what kind of body over a period of how much time.

.01 - .07 You feel mildly relaxed, a little lightheaded. Your inhibitions are loosened and you feel less cautious. Judgment abilities are slightly impaired. No real feeling of depressant effects of alcohol seen yet. Your behavior may become exaggerated and your emotions intensified.

.08-.13 Your motor skills start to become impaired and your sense of balance may be compromised. Your emotions become a bit exaggerated - perhaps loud, perhaps aggressive. It is dangerous (and illegal) for you to drive. Your judgment is impaired and you may have difficulty evaluating sexual situations. You believe you are functioning better than you actually are.

.14 - .19 The "good feelings" of euphoria begin to give way to some negative feelings such as anxiety and restlessness. You may begin feeling tired because the depressant qualities of alcohol begin to take effect. (If you are a man, you will have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.) You will have trouble walking or standing and are at a greater risk of hurting yourself physically. You may get nauseous.

.20 - .24 You feel confused and disoriented. At this point you may experience nausea. You have trouble standing. You may not realize that you hurt yourself because you might not feel pain. Blackouts become likely at this point.

.25 - .29 Almost all aspects of your brain are severely impaired. You may have passed out by this point. Vomiting is likely and the chance of asphyxiation on your own vomit is greatly increased. If you haven't passed out, the risk of personal injury is high because you have little to no physical control. You are emotionally numb.

.30 - .34 If you are still conscious, you are in a stupor. You likely have no comprehension of where you are or what you are doing. There have been numerous cases of alcohol poisoning and death in this range of BAC. You are in need of medical help.

.35 & up You have reached the level of surgical anesthesia. Coma is possible. The lungs and heart rate are slowing to the point of stopping. You need immediate medical help.

Your BAC is determined primarily by how much alcohol you drank, the rate of consumption, your weight and your gender. Other influences include: other drugs in system, hydration level, food in the stomach, type of drink.

Some Key Points about BAC:

  • The weight of a person greatly affects the distribution of alcohol throughout the body. The smaller the person, the less room for alcohol to distribute itself.
  • Generally, men can handle more alcohol than women. This is because women are usually smaller, have more body fat and have lower total body water content than men. Also, a woman's ability to metabolize alcohol can be affected by her menstrual cycle due to higher levels of estrogen. All of this contributes to higher concentrations of alcohol in a woman's system even if she is drinking the same amount as a man.
  • Alcohol is a depressant. Any illegal, prescription or over the counter drug is likely to react with alcohol and may increase intoxication or negative effects.
  • Your stomach lining absorbs alcohol directly into your blood stream. Food slows down that absorption of alcohol.
  • Diluting alcohol with water or juices reduces the volume of alcohol in your bloodstream. Drinking straight alcohol or alcohol mixed with carbonated beverages speeds up absorption.
  • If a person drinks faster than one drink per hour, the alcohol simply stays in the body, waiting its turn to be metabolized. The result is increasing levels of intoxication.
  • A person's BAC can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.
  • Rapid binge drinking is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious or exhibiting many of the other signs of alcohol poisoning.
  • Combining alcohol with energy drinks may give people the "sensation" of reduced alcohol effects but does not alter BAC (may not feel as drunk as you really are).
  • If you choose to drink and want a pleasurable and less risky experience, you need to drink less, drink slowly, and keep your BAC under a .06.
  • Only time can lower your BAC. Coffee, cold showers and runs around the block will just leave you alert, wet, and out of breath but still drunk.
  • Tolerance, a term meaning that after continued drinking, increasing amounts of alcohol are necessary to produce the same effect, does not have an effect on the actual BAC.