The Facts about Alcohol: what exactly is alcohol?
“Alcohol” is actually an informal name for the psychoactive substance ethanol. This substance is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, affecting virtually every system in the body. In particular, alcohol acts as a depressant of the Central Nervous System (CNS), which basically means alcohol slows it down. This is important because parts of the CNS control bodily functions like breathing, heart rate, and consciousness. In large amounts, alcohol will not only slow these processes, but could eventually shut them down altogether, resulting in a coma or death.
What is a standard drink?
You may be surprised to hear that the amount of liquid in your cup, glass, or bottle actually does not determine how much ALCOHOL is in your drink. Different types of beer, wine, and liquor have very different percentages of alcohol.
One STANDARD drink is 12oz. of beer, 7-8oz. malt liquor (an alcoholic liquor made from malt by fermentation rather than distillation; aka beer with a relatively high alcohol content), 4-5oz. of wine, or 1.5oz. of hard liquor like vodka, rum, whiskey, or tequila. This is very important to know if you are trying to maintain a safe BAC at or below .06.
Your BAC or Blood Alcohol Level is defined as the concentration of alcohol in your blood. This is expressed as the weight of alcohol in a fixed volume of blood and is used as a measure of the degree of intoxication in an individual. The concentration depends on body weight, the quantity and rate of alcohol ingestion, and the rates of alcohol absorption and metabolism.
What about that Long Island Iced Tea you just drank? It likely has more than 5 standard drinks in one and you’re now breaking the law and at risk for serious injury or death if you decide to drive (5 x .02 = .10 BAC, legal limit is .08 if over age 21). “But officer… I swear I only had one drink!”
Still unsure about how many standard drinks you’re actually consuming? There’s an app for that. Shots iGot (for iPhone) allows you to pick your container or bottle then fill it with different alcohols and mixers to see how many standard drinks there really are.
What about calculating your BAC? There are plenty of BAC calculators available, both online or for iPhone or Android. Just search the App Store for “IntelliDrink BAC Calculator” which allows you to track multiple people’s BACs at once.
The Stages of Intoxication
If you are concerned about your drinking or a friend’s drinking, or simply want to learn more, we can help! Contact the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion at (619) 260-4618 for resources and support!