Blood alcohol content, abbreviated as BAC, is the level of alcohol that is in a person’s blood after consuming alcohol. The level depends on how much alcohol the person drank, over what period of time, and the size of the person’s body. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body and reaches different organs, including the brain. This induces euphoria and the other pleasant effects of alcohol that most people want to achieve when drinking. The body can only metabolize about one drink per hour, so if someone consumes more than that or drinks quickly, the alcohol stays in the body until it is metabolized. This results in higher levels of intoxication. Frequently consuming alcohol frequently can lead to tolerance, where someone will need to drink more to feel the same effects, but a high tolerance does not have an effect on blood alcohol content.
The first 2 to 3 drinks will bring most people into the BAC range of .01 to .07. For a person who weighs 100 pounds, their BAC will be .06 after 2 drinks. A person who weighs 190 pounds will have .04 BAC after 2 drinks. At this level, a person will feel relaxed and less cautious. Inhibitions are lowered and emotions are intensified. Once a person reaches a BAC of .08, motor skills start to become impaired, balance becomes compromised, and the person starts to have trouble evaluating situations. They may also believe they are less intoxicated than they actually are. At this stage, driving becomes illegal.
.08 BAC is the legal limit to drive in USA
At .08, reflexes are slowed, muscle coordination is diminished, and eye coordination is weakened. If you are pulled over while driving at this level, you will likely be charged with the crime of driving under the influence (DUI). Once someone’s blood alcohol content reaches .14, the depressant effects of alcohol start to take effect, making them feel tired, anxious, or restless. It will become more difficult to walk or stand, and nausea may begin. A 100-pound person will likely reach .14 BAC after 3 or 4 drinks, while a 190-pound person will reach .14 BAC after about 5 or 6 drinks. This depends on how quickly they consumed the alcohol and if the person ate prior to drinking. When food is in the stomach, alcohol is absorbed more slowly.
A BAC of .20 will provoke feelings of confusion, disorientation, nausea and vomiting, and may potentially cause blacking out. Standing becomes difficult, and a person may even hurt themselves and become unable to feel pain. At .25 BAC, many people pass out. If a person is still conscious at this level, vomiting becomes very likely, as well as a complete loss of physical control. This can lead to asphyxiation if they lose consciousness and choke on their own vomit.
At .30 BAC, a person is at severe risk for alcohol poisoning and death. Medical attention should be sought at this level. A person who is not already unconscious will be unable to determine where they are or what they’re doing. Once they reach .35 BAC and above, their heart and lungs will slow down and they may fall into a coma. For most people, a BAC of .45 is fatal.
For most people, drinking to an extreme level of intoxication is never the goal and defeats the purpose of having a drink to relax. However, the more alcohol consumed, the less rational the thought process, leading many to continue drinking when they have really had enough. These lowered inhibitions are what often cause people to get behind the wheel of a car with confidence after drinking, putting themselves and others at risk.