What is BAC?

BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration or blood alcohol content. BAC is the metric used to measure the amount of alcohol intoxication for legal or medical purposes in the United States.

Alcohol on table near car keysBAC is expressed as a percentage of alcohol in the blood. For example, someone who has a .10 BAC has 0.10% or one tenth of one percent of their total volume of blood, as alcohol. That may not seem like much, but even .10 BAC is a lot of alcohol for the body to absorb and it takes much less to be intoxicated.

One big misconception about alcohol is that people can sober up by drinking coffee or eating to soak up the alcohol. Neither is true. The only thing that will lower a person’s BAC is time. There is no way to dilute the amount of alcohol in the body by eating or drinking other things. However, alcohol absorption can be slowed by ingesting alcohol on a full stomach, but a person must have the full stomach prior to consuming the alcohol.

A person’s BAC is affected by their gender, weight, metabolism, use of other medications and rate at which they drink alcohol.

  • Men on average have a higher percentage of water in their bodies than women. This fact alone accounts for the fact that men have the ability to drink more alcohol than women before feeling impaired.
  • People who weigh more have more water in their bodies and thus, it take more alcohol for them to become intoxicated.
  • Metabolism can vary from person to person, depending on things like body temperature and the type of food and alcohol being metabolized.  The slower the body metabolizes, the higher the BAC.
  • Certain medications, both prescription and over the counter, can enhance the effects of alcohol.
  • The faster a person consumes alcohol, the higher their BAC.

The legal BAC limit for a DUI is .08 in every state in the U.S.; however, impairment begins at much lower levels.

  • At .02 drinkers will begin to feel warm and relaxed.
  • At .04 people begin to feel more relaxed and talkative.
  • At .05 people begin to feel mellow. The ability to drive safely becomes clearly impaired.
  • At .06 a person’s judgment begins to become impaired.

The above is all before .08!

So how much do you need to drink to get to .08? Well, that depends on your gender, weight, metabolism and use of other medications. Some people can tolerate more alcohol than others. It’s important to never compare your consumption with someone else since every person is different.

The bottom line is to drink in moderation and always plan ahead with alternate transportation. Never wait until you have starting consuming alcohol to decide on a safe ride home.