While most of us know that you can’t drive once you’re over a certain blood alcohol level, many don’t know how different levels of blood alcohol content affect your body and mental state. We’ve put together a guide to answer any questions you may have about blood alcohol content and how you’re affected at the various levels.
The Basics of Blood Alcohol Content
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Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a way of measuring alcohol intoxication for legal and medical purposes. It’s usually expressed as a percentage of ethanol in the blood in units of mass of alcohol per volume of blood. In North America, a BAC of 0.1, or one tenth of a percent, means that for every 1,000 milliliters of blood, the body contains 1 milliliter of alcohol. While the number of drinks consumed has the biggest effect on one’s BAC, other factors such as how fast someone drank or how much they weigh also influence one’s blood alcohol content.
Below the Legal Limit of Intoxication
If you’ve had a drink, your blood alcohol content is likely below 0.029. You’re probably acting normal with no loss of coordination. Still, you may be feeling more relaxed and a little warmer than you were before you started drinking.
By the time your BAC has reached between 0.03 and 0.049, your body’s reaction time has started to become slightly delayed and your inhibitions are slightly lowered. You may be feeling mildly euphoric and more sociable than usual, or you may feel slightly depressed, depending on your mood before you started drinking.
When your body’s blood alcohol content reaches between 0.05 and 0.079, your balance, speech, level of caution and reaction time may start to become impaired. While you’re still legal to drive in most states with a BAC below 0.08, it is still unsafe for you to be on the road depending on how impaired you are.
Above the Legal Limit of Intoxication
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Once your body’s blood alcohol content has reached between 0.08 and 0.124, your sense of judgement becomes compromised and your motor skills are significantly impaired. At a BAC between 0.125 and 0.15, you may begin to feel nauseous as you lose control of your balance, or you may begin to feel dysphoric. At a blood alcohol content of 0.16 and 0.20, the body begins to stagger, speech slurs and reflexes fail.
Once you’ve reached a BAC of 0.21 and 0.24, your body has entered the danger zone. You’re probably feeling dazed and confused, you may need help standing or walking, you may black out and you vomit.
At a BAC of 0.25 to 0.34, you’re most likely in a stupor and will have trouble locating yourself. If your blood alcohol content exceeds 0.35, you’re at risk of falling into a coma as your body temperature begins to lower and your respiration becomes impaired. A BAC above 0.45 is fatal for nearly all individuals.
It can be hard to tell when your body enters the danger zone of intoxication. For some, it can happen as quickly as one drink, so if you make the decision to drink, be sure you drink responsibly. Consume alcohol slowly and understand that your own limit may be lower than those of your friends.
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