Text Size :

Alcohol Intoxication

The effects of alcohol depend on one's blood alcohol content, which can be estimated based on one's weight, gender, and number of drinks consumed by referring to an Alcohol Impairment Chart.

From a legal standpoint, alcohol intoxication is usually defined as the level where driving a vehicle would be impaired. In most jurisdictions the legal limit of blood alcohol content while driving is 0.05%-0.08%.

From a clinical point of view, intoxication, or being drunk, is the point where one's thoughts and actions become significantly disinhibited. This corresponds roughly to a blood alcohol content of 0.1% or 100mg/dl. Other changes that occur with varying alcohol levels include:

  • 0.05% or 50mg/dl: Thought, judgment and restraint are loosened and sometimes disrupted. Driving is impaired.
  • 0.1% or 100mg/dl: Coordination becomes significantly impaired, speech is slurred and voluntary movements become perceptibly clumsy. The person will be confused when faced with tasks requiring thinking, will seem emotionally unstable and will laugh inappropriately.
  • 0.2% or 200mg/dl: Decrease in the activity of major parts of the brain, including areas mediating voluntary movement and emotional expression. Speech will be very slurred, gait will be unsteady and even sitting upright in a chair will be difficult. Memory loss occurs regarding events that took place while being drunk.
  • 0.3% or 300mg/dl: Confusion, stupor or unconsciousness.
  • 0.4% or 500mg/dl: Comatose, low blood pressure, irregular breathing.
  • 0.5% or 500mg/dl: Primitive brain centers controlling breathing and heart rate are impaired, and death is possible due to breathing cessation, excessively low blood pressure, or vomit entering the lungs with the cough reflex being impaired.

Long-term heavy drinkers can tolerate much higher levels of bloodalcohol content, meaning that the above effects will occur at higher alcohol levels. This fact can be a used as a clinical way to identify individuals who are long-term heavy drinkers.


prev | next

Regular Alcohol Use

Long-term Heavy Use