ABOUT BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVELS: The amount of alcohol in the blood stream is referred to as Blood Alcohol Level (BAL). It is recorded in milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. For example, a BAL of .10 means that 1/10 of 1 percent (or 1/1000) of the total blood content is alcohol. Alcohol typically moves directly from the stomach into the blood stream. This is why people typically feel the effects of alcohol quite quickly, especially if drinking on an empty stomach. BAL depends on the amount of blood (which increases with body weight), and the amount of alcohol consumed over time. Drinking fast will quickly raise a drinker's BAL because the liver can only handle about a drink per hour--the rest remains in your blood stream. With a BAL of .02, you may experience an increase in body warmth, and a lowering of inhibition; at .05, you are less alert and begin to experience impaired coordination. A BAL of .08 is the legal limit for drunk driving in most states. With a BAL of .15, you experience impaired balance and are noticeably drunk. Many people lose consciousness with a BAL of .30 or higher, and breathing can stop with a BAL of .50, at which point many people die.
WHAT IS ALCOHOL? Alcohol is created through the natural process of fermentation. This happens when yeast and sugar from vegetables and grains change the sugar into alcohol. When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream, where it can affect the central nervous system -- the control center for your entire body. Alcohol slows down this control center with its sedative effect. In moderation alcohol can reduce anxiety, but it also blocks some of the commands the brain sends to other parts of the body, so it alters your senses.
This report has been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.