General definition of blood-alcohol level: the percent of alcohol in one's blood

Factors Affecting Blood-Alcohol Level

  • Weight: Since alcohol travels through the bloodstream, the more someone weighs, the more alcohol it will take to get that person drunk.
  • Tolerance (absence of resistance to effects) also has contributing factors.
  • Amount of food and water in the stomach: Can slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
  • The human body, on average, can metabolize approximately one-half ounce of alcohol per hour, so if a person drinks rapidly, there is an accumulation of alcohol in the body creating a blood alcohol level (BAL). This excess of alcohol in the body continues to circulate until the body can metabolize it.
  • Carbonated alcoholic beverages: Sparkling wine or champagne speeds up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, thereby speeding up intoxication.

Blood-Alcohol Levels

  • 1-2 drinks: BAL .02%-.06%
    Lowering of inhibitions, lowering of brain functioning, some impairment in judgment, release of restraints and feelings of relaxation. Sometimes changes existing mood, increases heart rate, and gives a feeling of warmth.
  • 3-4 drinks: BAL .08%-.12%
    Further depression of the cortex resulting in lowered functioning of brain, judgment is now severely impaired and concentration is poor, coordination is impaired, total relaxation of inhibitions, less concern about surroundings and environment.
  • 5-6 drinks: BAL .14%-.15%
    Reduced operation of those parts of the brain controlling movement, impairment of fine coordination skills, significantly delayed reaction time, exaggerated emotions, noticeable clumsiness, talkativeness, impaired vision, coordination, judgment is nil as is concentration, and speech is slurred.
  • 6-8 drinks: BAL .16%-.20%
    The person may be falling over himself drunk, obnoxious, loud, clumsy, nauseated, and vomiting. There is no judgment, no coordination, vision is blurred, speech is slurred, motor activities are severely impaired, as are mental functions.
  • 8-10 drinks: BAL .20%-.30%
    May be passed out, definitely may feel a need to lie down, cannot walk without help, probably cannot stand, crying or rage without provocation, double vision, no coordination, no judgment.
  • 10-15 drinks: BAL .30%-.50%
    This person may be dead! If alive, he or she may be passed out. If conscious, there is a high degree of uninhibited behavior, no balance or coordination, no sense of judgment, poor ability to see at all, emotions may be depressed or this person may rage with anger, usually cannot stand or is falling into things if can stand at all, nausea, vomiting. If the person can function at this level without these symptoms, she or he has a high degree of tolerance and is probably a problem drinker if not an alcoholic.

Impaired Drinking

Find out what your blood alcohol concentration is by using the BAC calculator, and learn more about impaired driving.