Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels

Understanding blood alcohol concentration levels is crucial to your safety and the safety of others.

In the United States alone, every day, 29 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This is equivalent to one death every 50 minutes. The total annual cost of alcohol-related crashes is approximately $44 billion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed some alarming statistics. In 2016, 10,497 people died due to alcohol-impaired driving. This accounted for 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

Also in 2016, the number of drivers arrested for driving under the influence of narcotics or alcohol was more than 1 million. This is just only one percent of the 111 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving annually among adults in the United States.

If you are planning on drinking alcohol, it is important to understand blood alcohol level or blood alcohol content (BAC). It is crucial that you know what the numbers mean, because this knowledge can make a massive difference if you are drinking and driving.

A thorough understanding of BAC can help you abide by the law. It can even save your life or the lives of others.

What Is Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)?

Blood alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in your blood. It is also the weight of the alcohol in a particular volume of blood, which is measured in grams per deciliter. Primarily, BAC is used as a gauge of intoxication for medical and legal purposes. When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed through the walls of the stomach and the small intestine.

It then enters your bloodstream, travels through the entire body, and reaches the brain. Interestingly, alcohol is quickly absorbed by your body and can be measured within 30 to 70 minutes after a person consumes it. Even after you have stopped drinking, the concentration of alcohol in the blood continues to surge. This is because the alcohol in your stomach continues to enter the bloodstream.

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Different BAC Levels and Their Effects

Like other drugs, alcohol produces different effects in different people. You may be drunk at a lower BAC level, while other people may feel fewer effects from alcohol, even if they have higher BAC levels.

Despite these differences, alcohol tends to produce similar effects in most people:

  • 0.03 BAC: At this level, alcohol makes you feel less shy. While alcohol produces little to no effect on your motor skills at this point, you may feel a slight sense of euphoria.
  • Between .04 and .06 BAC: When you are at this level, you may feel some heat within your body that many associate with alcohol. Side effects you noticed at .03 BAC may be heightened, and you may experience slight memory and reasoning problems in addition to more intense emotions.
  • Between .07 and .09 BAC: At this level (.08 BAC minimum), you become legally drunk. Most people feel that alcohol affects their senses at this level, and reaction times and motor skills are also affected (balance, speech, and vision).
  • Between .10 and .12 BAC: When you reach this level, you notice that your speech begins to slur. This level of alcohol also may significantly affect your motor skills and reaction time.
  • Between .13 and .15 BAC: At this level, you may have trouble maintaining your balance. The depressant effects of alcohol also become much more obvious. Moreover, your level of intoxication may make it difficult to exercise good judgment.
  • Between .16 and .19 BAC: When you are at this level, you may feel nauseous, slur your speech, and experience severe coordination problems.
  • Between .20 and .25 BAC: At this level, vomiting is very likely. In addition, you may also find it difficult to stand on your own and also find it difficult to feel and perceive pain.
  • Between .25 and .35 BAC: When you reach this level, it’s likely that you’re incapacitated. People at this level have a high risk of choking on their own vomit.
  • 0.35 BAC and above: At this high level, there is a much greater risk of lapsing into a coma. The effects of alcohol could be so severe that they produce the same effects as anesthesia. A BAC level higher than 0.35 may be fatal.

Drinking small amounts of alcohol may produce some positive effects, but too much may harm your system and affect others. “Don’t drink and drive” is a common phrase but a helpful one. If you plan to drive, avoid drinking too much alcohol, or better yet, avoid drinking at all.

If you cannot let a day pass without drinking alcohol, you may be suffering from alcohol dependency or addiction and may need help.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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