Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

The Importance of Blood Alcohol Concentration When Determining Intoxication

It is no secret that the more alcohol an individual drinks the more their mental and physical functioning will deteriorate. It would not be true however, to say that the same amount of alcohol will have the same impact on every individual. One person can drink three bottles of beer and feel relatively fine, but someone else might drink the same amount and feel drunk. One important reason for why this happens is that their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is not the same. It is more accurate to use BAC for determining intoxication rather than drinks consumed.

Blood Alcohol Concentration Explained

Blood alcohol concentration is a measurement of the percentage of alcohol in the blood stream. For example, if an individual has a BAC of 0.21 it means that the 21% of the fluid in their blood stream is alcohol. The higher the blood concentration level increases the more damaging it can be to the individual. The highest ever recorded BAC level was in Poland where tests showed that one man had reached 1.48. The average person will die at less than one third of this level.

Blood Alcohol Concentration Effects

As the level of BAC rises in the body it leads to different effects such as:

* Less than 0.29: The individual will appear and feel completely normal.
* 0.03 – 0.059: The subject experiences mild euphoria and feels more sociable. Their ability to concentrate will decline.
* 0.06 – 0.09: The individual will usually feel far less inhibited and will experience significant mental impairment. Their ability to reason will have diminished. Persons at this level of intoxication may also have problems with depth perception and peripheral vision.
* 0.1 – 0.19: The subject tends to be noticeably intoxicated at this blood alcohol concentration. They may stagger and slur their speech. They may also experience mood swings and act in ways that they will regret the next day.
* 0.2 – 0.29: The individual may lose consciousness at this stage. Reasoning with a person at this level can be difficult because their ability to understand has diminished substantially. It is common for people at this level of intoxication to experience a blackout.
* 0.3 – 0.39: People can die at this level of intoxication. Their central nervous system has been severely depressed and may become unresponsive. The person may also lose control of their bladder so that they are incontinent of urine.
* Greater than 0.5: If BAC reaches this level the individual will almost certainly die.

Drunk Driving Limits and BAC

Some places of the world enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking alcohol and driving a vehicle. In most parts of the United States people, are allowed to drive so long as their BAC is lower than 0.8. Some individual states will have limits that are lower than this. Many individuals get into trouble with the breathalyzer the morning after a big night out drinking. They fail to appreciate that their BAC is still high from the night before and that this puts them over the legal limit to drive.

Factors that Influence Blood Alcohol Concentration

It is too simplistic to say that the amount of alcohol an individual will drink will determine their BAC. This is because two people can have the same amount to drink but different BAC levels. This measurement correlates to the amount consumed, but will also be influenced by:

* Sex: If a woman drinks the same amount as a man, she will tend to have a higher BAC.
* Body mass: Alcohol becomes more concentrated if people have a larger body mass. This means their blood alcohol concentration will be lower as a result.
* Body fat: People a higher body fat percentage are usually prone to having a higher BAC. This is because fat cannot absorb alcohol like other types of tissue.
* Stomach contents: If people have eaten recently, they will tend to have a lower BAC. This is because stomach contents slow down the rate by which alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream.

The Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Anyone with a blood alcohol concentration about 0.2 is at risk of developing alcohol poisoning. The symptoms of this can include:

* Unconsciousness
* Pupils that are dilated
* High degree of confusion
* Agitation and aggressiveness
* Vomiting
* Clammy skin
* Incontinence of feces or urine
* An irregular heartbeat
* Convulsions
* Difficulty, slowed or noisy breathing
* Drop in body temperature

How to Treat Alcohol Poisoning

If an individual is suspected of experiencing alcohol poisoning then they will need proper medical treatment. The worst thing to do is to just let the person sleep it off. They are at risk of vomiting into their own lungs. Their respiratory rate could also fall to a dangerously low level. It is also not a good idea to try to get them to walk it off, as they will be prone to accidents. Getting them to drink coffee could also be a mistake, as this will increase the risk of vomiting.

The hospital treatment for alcohol poisoning will depend on the severity. Sometimes all that is needed is careful monitoring and oxygen therapy. Sometimes it will be necessary to pump the stomach of the individual or give them intravenous fluids.

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