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H
ealth Hint #200
 

Alcohol: Know Your Limit---And Stick to It

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine, DonR. Powell PhD

Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer



The following tables, The Effects of Alcohol, and Know Your Limit, show approximately how much you have to drink to reach various levels of blood alcohol content (BAC), and what effect alcohol has at those levels.

These are only rough guides, however. How much you drink isn't the only factor that determines how intoxicated you become. Other factors explain why one person seems to be able to "hold their liquor" (or beer or wine) while another can't. How tipsy you get when you drink depends on:

How much you've eaten. You get drunk faster on an empty stomach; food slows down the body's absorption of alcohol.

How long it takes you to finish a drink. The body metabolizes alcohol at 1/3 ounce per hour-a little less than the amount in a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a mixed drink with 11/2 ounces 80-proof liquor. So downing two or three drinks in an hour is more intoxicating than sipping those same drinks over the course of an evening.

What you drink. Generally, the higher the concentration of alcohol, the more quickly alcohol is absorbed. Vodka, for example. is 40 or 50 percent alcohol, so it's absorbed faster than beer, which averages 3.2 to 5 percent alcohol.

Carbonation. Carbonated drinks like champagne are absorbed faster than noncarbonated drinks, like wine.

Your weight. Given equal amounts of alcohol consumed in 1 hour, a lighter person will reach a higher blood alcohol level than a heavier person.

Your age. Given equal amounts of alcohol, older people generally achieve higher blood alcohol levels than younger people.

The Effects of Alcohol

As the amount of alcohol in your blood increases, your mental and physical reactions to it change. Here's a rough guide to the physical and psychological effects of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol in Blood (%) Typical Effects
0.05 Loosening of judgment, thought, and restraint. Release of tension, carefree sensation.
0.08 Tension and inhibitions of everyday life lessened.
0.10* Voluntary motor action affected; hand and arm movements, walk, and speech clumsy.
0.20 Severe impairment. Staggering; loud, incoherent speech. Emotionally unstable. One hundred times greater risk of traffic accident.
0.30 Deeper areas of brain affected, causing confusion and stupor.
0.40 When asleep, difficult to arouse. Incapable of voluntary action. Equivalent to surgical anesthesia.
0.50 Coma. Anesthesia of center controlling breathing and heartbeat. Death.

* For most states, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10 is the indicator for driving while intoxicated.

 

KNOW YOUR LIMIT

Body Weight
(lbs.) Number of Drinks Consumed in a 2-hour period*

100 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
120 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
140 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
160 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
180 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
200 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
220 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
240 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Be Careful Driving (BAC** to 0.05%)
Driving May Be impaired (BAC** 0.05-0.09%)
Do Not Drive!! Intoxication (BAC** 0.10% & up)***

NOTE: This chart provides averages only. Individuals may vary, and factors such as food in the stomach, medication, and fatigue can affect your tolerance.

*One drink equals 1 1/2 oz. of 80-proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of wine.
**Blood alcohol content.
***The BAC percentages for impairment and intoxication vary from state to state

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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.