Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services
Airport Executive Plaza
1321 Murfreesboro Pike Suite 155
Nashville, TN 37217
Phone: 615-780-5901 mail@taadas.org
Alcohol And BAC

Things You Need To Know


WHAT IS ALCOHOL?

Alcohol, a natural substance formed by the fermentation that occurs when sugar reacts with yeast, is the major active ingredient in wine, beer, and distilled spirits.  Although there are many kinds of alcohol, the kind found in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol.  Whether one drinks a 12-ounce can of beer, a shot of distilled spirits or a 5-ounce glass of wine, the amount of pure alcohol is the same as one half ounce.  Ethyl alcohol can produce feelings of well-being, seduction, intoxication, or unconsciousness, depending on the amount consumed.

Alcohol is a ‘psychoactive’ or mind-altering drug, the one most commonly abused.  It can alter moods, cause changes in the body and become habit forming.  Alcohol is called a ‘downer’ because it depresses the central nervous system.

WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS?

Alcohol works first on the part of the brain that controls inhibitions.  As people lose their inhibitions, they may talk more, get rowdy, and do foolish things.  After several drinks they may feel ‘high’, but their nervous systems actually are slowing them down.  A person doesn’t have to be an alcoholic to have problems with alcohol.  Every year, for example many young people lose their lives in alcohol-related automobile accidents, suicides, and drowning.  Abuse of alcohol can lead to serious physical problems such as:

         High Blood Pressure, Heart Attacks, and Strokes;

         Stomach Ulcers, Irritable Colon, and Cirrhosis of the Liver;

         Damage to the Brain, Pancreas, and Kidneys;

         Impotence and Infertility;

         Birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which causes mental retardation, small head size, low birth weight, and limb abnormalities.

WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.  The disease is often progressive and fatal.  According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, alcoholism is characterized by continuous or periodic impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

 CAN THE DISEASE OF ALCOHOLISM BE PREVENTED?

 Yes.  The first step is an understanding of the disease and awareness of the early symptoms.  Recognizing that alcohol is a drug and that its use includes certain potential risks is a basis for personal prevention.

Glass.JPG (13368 bytes)HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

 Alcohol affects the mind and body depending on how much is consumed over a certain amount of time.  It takes the body one hour to burn off an ounce of alcohol after it is absorbed into the blood.  Once absorbed, nothing (drinking coffee, cold showers, etc.) will hurry away its effects.  Only time will lessen the effects of alcohol.  Less concentrated alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine, can take longer to absorb than spirits.  Drinks mixed with soda or carbon dioxide have increased absorption rate.  Even one or two drinks can significantly impair a driver’s judgment and reaction time.

 WHAT IS BAC?

 BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration.  BAC is expressed in percentage of alcohol to blood.  The higher the BAC number, the more impaired a person is.  In Tennessee, .10  is the legal level of intoxication.  (A bill before the US House and Senate plans to make .08 the national standard for drunk driving in all 50 states.)   This means that for every 800 drops of blood in a person’s body, there is at least one drop of alcohol.  BAC changes with body weight, time spent drinking, and the amount of alcohol that is consumed.

 BAC EFFECTS ON FEELING AND BEHAVIOR

 .01 - .03 There is a mild lift in feeling.  You have some loss of judgment.  (1 drink within 15 minutes… BAC .03%)

 .04 - .06 Most People feel high and must decide whether to continue drinking.  You may get louder and have some loss of small muscle control, like focusing your eyes. (2 drinks within hour… BAC .06%)

 .08 - .09 Your sight and hearing are worse.  It’s harder to detect danger.  You have less sense of balance.  (3 drinks within 1 hour… BAC .09%)

 .10 - .12 Many people claim they’re not affected anymore, as if they could drink themselves sober.  You are definitely not thinking straight.  (4 drinks within 2 hours… BAC .12%)

 .13 - .15 You have far less muscle control than normal.  People feel happy even though they’re stumbling and acting foolishly.  Risk of an automobile crash increases to 25 times the normal rate (5-7 drinks within 3 hours… BAC .15%)

 .20 - .25 You’re confused.  You usually need help doing things, even standing up.  Those who drive are 50 to 100 times more likely to crash.  The average alcohol-related highway death occurs at this level. (8-12 drinks within 4 hours…  BAC .20%

 .30 Almost nothing gets through the senses.  An extremely life threatening BAC level.

 .40 Your condition ranges from conscious to comatose.  There is a chance of death from a ‘shut down’ of breathing.

 Sources: U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, NCADD, TAADAS, and Dateline DREAM

 Revised:  10/00


 
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