How Much is Too Much?
The level of
impairment a person experiences from drinking alcohol
relates to the quantity of alcohol consumed in what time
period. The body is able to metabolize approximately one
drink (1/2 ounce of pure alcohol) per hour. One 12 ounce
beer, five ounces of wine and one ounce of distilled
spirits all equal one half ounce of pure alcohol or one
"drink". If a person drinks more than one drink
per hour her or his body's metabolism cannot keep up, the
level of alcohol in her or his blood will increase and
she or he will feel more intoxicated. The metabolism
proceeds at a steady pace, oblivious to the amount of
alcohol consumed. The more a person drinks, the longer it
takes him or her to become sober and the higher her or
his blood alcohol level.
estimate your alcohol concentration, match the number of
drinks consumed to your body weight. Estimated weight
should not include excess body fat, so subtract any
"extra" pounds before figuring. Also subtract .015
for each hour since drinking began.
Biological response to alcohol varies from person to
person and from time to time in the same person. A person
who chooses to drink may wish to consider several
biological and interaction factors when deciding how much
or it to drink on a given day:
- Food. A person
who drinks on an empty stomach will experience
greater impairment from alcohol than if his or
her stomach were full. The presence of food in
the stomach slows absorption. Foods high in
protein tend to stay in the stomach longest, thus
it is best to eat food such as meats, fish, eggs
or cheese before and during drinking.
Drinking alcohol together with sleeping pills,
other medications (such as aspirin,
antihistamines, prescription drugs), or illicit
drugs can have unintended and dangerous
consequences. Certain combinations can be fatal..
At best, alcohol can block the curative action of
medication, rendering the drug ineffective. If
you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter
medications it is best to call the Health Center
to check with a doctor or nurse before drinking.
- Sleep or Illness.
If you are sick or just getting well, you are
likely to experience greater impairment from
alcohol. This increased impairment is also a risk
for people who are tired. In certain cases of
chronic illness any use of alcohol is high risk.
- Age. In general,
adolescents and elderly people experience greater
impairment from alcohol than young adults and
- Body Size. Body
size refers to lean mass, not fat. (Alcohol is
water, not fat, soluble.) A smaller person
generally will experience greater impairment from
alcohol than a large person would from the same
amount of alcohol. This seems to be true for two
reasons: larger people may metabolize alcohol
more quickly (they may have a larger liver
capacity) and larger people have more body fluid
to dilute the alcohol.
- Gender. Women
typically become more impaired from the same
amount of alcohol than men of the same size. This
may be because women tend to have a higher
percentage of body fat than men. In addition, 1-3
days before menstruation, a woman may become more
intoxicated and stay intoxicated longer than
usual. This may be due to hormonal changes
occurring at that time.
get a paper copy of the above blood alcohol chart, visit
the Peer Health Room, Baxter B08, during call-in / walk-in
hours, 6:30 to 8:30 on weekday evenings.