Effects of blood alcohol content on thinking, feeling and behavior:

Alcohol Class Notes
1. Blood alcohol concentration: The amount of alcohol
present in the blood – expressed as a percentage.
0.02 - 0.03 Legal definition of intoxication for
people less than 21 years of age. Few obvious
effects; slight intensification of mood.
0.05 - 0.06 Feeling of warmth, relaxation, mild
sedation; exaggeration of emotion and behavior;
slight decrease in reaction time and in finemuscle coordination; impaired judgment about
continued drinking.
0.07 - 0.09 More noticeable speech impairment and
disturbance of balance; impaired motor
coordination, hearing and vision; feeling of
elation or depression; increased confidence; may
not recognize impairment.
0.08 Legal definition of intoxication for people
21 years and older.
0.11 - 0.12 Coordination and balance become
difficult; distinct impairment of mental faculties
and judgment.
0.14 - 0.15 Major impairment of mental and
physical control; slurred speech, blurred vision
and lack of motor skills; needs medical
0.20 Loss of motor control; must have assistance
moving about; mental confusion; needs medical
0.30 Severe intoxication; minimum conscious
control of mind and body; needs hospitalization.
0.30 - 0.60 This level of alcohol has been
measured in people who have died of alcohol
0.40 Unconsciousness; coma; needs hospitalization.
Why does alcohol impact men and women differently?
There are several physiological reasons that cause a
woman to feel the effects of alcohol more than a man,
even if they are the same size. There is also
increasing evidence that women are more susceptible to
alcohol's damaging effects than are men. Below are
explanations of why men and women’s bodies process
alcohol differently.
 Ability to dilute alcohol
Women have less body water (52% for the average woman
v. 61% for the average man) then men which means that
a man's body will automatically dilute the alcohol
more than a woman's body, even if the two people
weigh the same amount.
 Ability to metabolize alcohol
Women have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that
breaks down alcohol, than men. So a woman's body will
break down alcohol more slowly than a man's.
 Hormonal factors
Premenstrual hormonal changes cause intoxication to
set in faster during the days right before a woman
gets her period. Birth control pills or other
medication with estrogen will slow down the rate at
which alcohol is eliminated from the body.
 Women are more susceptible to long-term alcoholinduced damage.
Women who are heavy drinkers are at greater risk of
liver disease, damage to the pancreas and high blood
pressure than male heavy drinkers. Proportionately
more alcoholic women die from cirrhosis than do
alcoholic men.
What other factors affect your response to
 Food
Having food in your stomach can have a
powerful influence on the absorption of
alcohol. The food will dilute the alcohol and
slow the emptying of the stomach into the
small intestine, where alcohol is very rapidly
absorbed. Peak BAC could be as much as 3 times
higher in someone with an empty stomach than
in someone who has eaten a meal before
drinking. Eating regular meals and having
snacks while drinking will keep you from
getting too drunk too quickly.
4. What is the difference between a blackout and
passing out?
 Blackouts occur when people have no memory of what
happened while intoxicated. These periods may last
from a few hours to several days. During a
blackout, someone may appear fine to others;
however, the next day s/he cannot remember parts
of the night and what s/he did. The cause of
blackouts is not well understood but may involve
the interference of short-term memory storage,
deep seizures, or in some cases, psychological
 Blackouts shouldn't be confused with "passing
out," which happens when people lose consciousness
from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Losing
consciousness means that the person has reached a
very dangerous level of intoxication; they could
slip into a coma and die. If someone has passed
out, call EMS immediately. Immediate medical
attention is needed.
What is a hangover and can I prevent it?
 Hangovers are the body's reaction to poisoning and
withdrawal from alcohol. Hangovers begin 8 to 12
hours after the last drink and symptoms include
fatigue, depression, headache, thirst, nausea, and
vomiting. The severity of symptoms varies
according to the individual and the quantity of
alcohol consumed.
 People have tried many different things to relieve
the effects of "the morning after," and there are
a lot of myths about what to do to prevent or
alleviate a hangover. The only way to prevent a
hangover is to drink in moderation:
* Eat a good dinner and continue to snack
throughout the night.
* Alternate one alcoholic drink with one nonalcoholic drink.
* Avoid drinking games or shots. Drinking a large
amount of
alcohol in a short amount of time is the most likely
way to become dangerously intoxicated.
 Here are some of the things that WON'T help a
 Drinking a little more alcohol the next day. This
simply puts more alcohol in your body and prolongs
the effects of the alcohol intoxication.
 Having caffeine while drinking will not counteract
the intoxication of alcohol; you simply get a more
alert drunk person. Excessive caffeine will
continue to lower your blood sugar and dehydrate
you even more than alcohol alone.
 Giving water to someone who is throwing up. Once
the stomach is irritated enough to cause vomiting,
it doesn't matter what you put into it -- it's
going to come back up. Any liquid will cause a
spasm reaction and more vomiting.
 It's best not to take a pain reliever before going
to bed. Give your body a chance to process the
alcohol before taking any medication.