Alcohol Use and Drinking Problems

Alcohol Equivalencies

As shown in the following diagram, the absolute amount of ethyl alcohol that a drinker consumes is approximately the same for a 5 ounce glass of wine, a 12 ounce can or bottle of beer, and a standard shot of distilled spirits. In each case, one drink equals a little more than a half-ounce of alcohol. Of course, the larger the wine glass or beer bottle, the greater the amount of alcohol. Also, some beverages such as fortified wines and malt liquor contain more alcohol by volume than ordinary wine or beer.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

An individual's Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a function of a number of factors, including gender, body weight, and number of drinks consumed within a period of time. The following table shows how absolute BAC varies as a function of those three variables. In addition, BAC can depend upon whether alcohol is consumed with a meal and whether the beverage is carbonated (e.g., sparkling wine). In most people, the liver is able to metabolize slightly less than half an ounce of alcohol per hour. The table shows BAC for number of drinks consumed in one hour.

Behavioral Effects of BAC

Some of the behavioral, perceptual, and pathological effects that individuals tend to experience at different levels of BAC are shown in the next table. Although it is not shown in this table, a BAC of 0.60 is virtually certain to produce death due to depressed functioning of the respiratory system or heart. Florida law states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration exceeds .08.

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