How much alcohol is too much drinking? Knowing your BAC can be key!

There has been some research suggesting that training people to better estimate their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), can help reduce accidents and improve risk-taking while drinking among college students (see here and here respectively).

I’m including a recent piece from one of our readers, telling us about her first over-21 drinking experience in Las-Vegas. I think this story exemplifies that young adults may often consume more alcohol than they are aware of while underestimating its effects Continue reading “How much alcohol is too much drinking? Knowing your BAC can be key!”

About Addiction: Drug Information, alcohol safety, and Addiction recovery resources

You guessed it, another great piece detailing some interesting information about addiction from the corners of the world (wide web?). Enjoy, and remember to let us know if we’re missing some topics you’d like to see here!

Drug Information and alcohol safety

Drug.ie– Educating teens about drugs during the time of adolescence may be too late according to this piece. which claims that parents are very ignorant about the whole drug culture (many do not even know that their teens are using drugs or alcohol). In order to try to combat the drug problem parents should be educated and the whole community should work together to help alleviate the drug problem.   

Irish medical news– A new street drug has emerged in Ireland and is selling for €2 (something like $3). The drug has said to be as dangerous as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). The drug is currently being analyzed for its properties but is thought to be as potent as mephedrone, BZP and MDPV.

Examiner– This article examines the history of Amy Winehouse and how she used to be deeply involved in the world of drugs.  The good thing that emerges from this article is the fact that Amy Winehouse has been sober for over 3 years – If Amy can do it, I’m sure many other addicts can!

Breaking the cycles- This article examines the proper ways to deal with individuals when they are drunk.  Alcohol works by depressing the central nervous system by slowing down the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and slowing a person’s breathing rate. If a friend passes out and they have consumed a lot of alcohol you should turn them on their side in order to prevent them from choking on their vomit. This is important, however it cannot stop the depressant action of alcohol as it keeps working on the central nervous system.

Addiction recovery resources

Bloomsburg Buisnessweek– Mental illness stigma is very difficult to shake when it comes to addiction recovery. In order to compact this issue individuals need to be educated about mental illness. In order to reduce stigma people should be urged to focus on the person rather than the disease.

5min Life Videopedia– This video gives a great perspective on how to help individuals who are recovering from drug addiction and alcohol abuse. It is worth watching, Enjoy!

About Addiction: Drug use and crime, increasing marijuana use, cravings and brain function

Check out the newest links about addiction. Leave us your feedback!

Drug use & Crime

Huffington Post: Over 5,000 lives were taken in drug related crimes in Mexico in the past year. Drug trade related violence is linked directly to the rising levels of drug use worldwide.

Marijuana use

Bloomberg Businessweek: For the first time since 2002, the number of Americans smoking marijuana rose . Around 12.5% (39 million people) between the ages of 15 and 64, smoked marijuana in 2008, up from 12.3 percent the year before. Medical Marijuana anyone?

Drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes

Science Daily: Drunkenness increases the risk for violent behavior, but only for individuals with a strong inclination to suppress anger. Seems similar to my thesis findings.

Health Day: American teenage girls seem more receptive to drinking alcohol and taking other drugs than in earlier years. Teenage girls reach more than ever for drugs and booze to help them emotionally.

Health Day: There seems to be a connection between parents who smoke and children who weigh more or misbehave more than other children. This speaks to the environmental, as well as genetic, influences on behavior and health.

Cesar Fax: The percentage of high school students who for the first time tried alcohol or cigarettes before the age of 13 has decreased over the last ten years. In 1999, around one-third of high school students had reported drinking alcohol and one-fourth reported smoking a cigarette for the first time before age 13.

Health Day: Smoking may cause certain genetic mutations in older women, and therefore boost the risk of colon cancer in that population. In the general population, there is not much of connection between smoking and a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Cravings and Brain function in addiction

Science Daily: Recovering addicts who avoid coping with stress succumb easily to substance use cravings, making them more likely to relapse during recovery.

Science Daily: Becoming addicted could result from a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in the brain. There exists a correlation between synaptic plasticity and the transition to addiction.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC levels)

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is a measure of alcohol concentration in a person’s bloodstream. The more a person drinks, the higher their BAC and the more they experience alcohol-related impairments. The following table shows the behavioral, physical, and mental changes brought on by alcohol at various BAC levels:

Progressive Effects of Alcohol with rising BAC levels

Blood Alcohol
Concentration
Changes in Feelings
and Personality
Physical and Mental
Impairments
0.01 — 0.06 Relaxation
Sense of Well-being
Loss of Inhibition
Lowered Alertness
Joyous
Thought
Judgment
Coordination
Concentration
0.06 — 0.10 Blunted Feelings
Disinhibition
Extroversion
Impaired Sexual Pleasure
Reflexes Impaired
Reasoning
Depth Perception
Distance Acuity
Peripheral Vision
Glare Recovery
0.11 — 0.20 Over-Expression
Emotional Swings
Angry or Sad
Boisterous
Reaction Time
Gross Motor Control
Staggering
Slurred Speech
0.21 — 0.29 Stupor
Lose Understanding
Impaired Sensations
Severe Motor Impairment
Loss of Consciousness
Memory Blackout
0.30 — 0.39 Severe Depression
Unconsciousness
Death Possible
Bladder Function
Breathing
Heart Rate
=> 0.40 Unconsciousness
Death
Breathing
Heart Rate

BAC levels can be accurately measured through blood, breath, or urine tests. Currently, the legal limit to drive in the U.S. is .08 for individuals over the age of 21. That limit is similar to those used in other states, but there is some variation.

How many drinks for a BAC of .08?

The answer to this question is a little more complicated than it seems. Alcohol affects everyone differently. In general, smaller individuals reach higher BAC levels more quickly than larger individuals, fatter individuals reach higher levels more quickly than muscular individuals, and women reach higher levels more quickly than men. These factors are all related to the amount of water present in the body. The more water a person has in their body, the more diluted the alcohol will be in their blood. (smaller individuals have less water than bigger people, fatty tissue has less water than muscle, and women typically have a higher % of body fat than men).

Chronic drinkers can develop a tolerance to alcohol, allowing them to metabolize alcohol more quickly and giving them added resistance to the functional impairments of alcohol.

Furthermore, alcohol can affect the same person differently under different circumstances. Eating before drinking can delay alcohol absorption and reduce a person’s peak BAC levels by as much as 40%. Exhaustion, illness, and dehydration impair a person’s ability to metabolize alcohol, promoting higher BAC. Depressed mood and stress can also magnify the effects of alcohol. Finally, medications can react with alcohol, potentially causing serious health complications.

You’ve had too many – can you lower BAC?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic food or drink that can lower your BAC levels. Exercising and taking a cold shower will also do nothing to lower BAC. BAC levels will only decrease with time. On average, a person metabolizes alcohol at a rate of one drink (0.5 oz alcohol) per hour. Spacing out drinks is a good way to manage BAC levels as it gives your body time to metabolize alcohol while delaying further increases in BAC.

Understanding your body is the first step towards preventing dangerous BAC levels. Plan ahead make sure you don’t ruin your night or someone else’s by drinking more than you can handle.

Additional Resources:

BAC table for men

BAC table for women

Check out the Virtual Bar at www.b4udrink.org for a really fun way to learn about your own limits!

College students and binge drinking

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that brings an individual’s BAC (blood alcohol content) above .08 (the legal limit in most states). This equates to approximately 4-5 drinks for a man or 3-4 drinks for a woman within a 2 hour period.

In case some of you forgot, one drink is approximately a 1.5 oz shot OR 5 oz. of wine OR 12 oz. of beer.

College binge drinking norms

College students are one population in which binge drinking is prevalent. Prior to 18 years of age, students who end up not attending any college are most at risk for binge drinking. However, after 18 (the age when most people graduate from high school), students who attend a 4 year university become the population most at risk to binge.

So what is it about going to college that makes people want to drink more?

One important factor to consider is the way we portray college in the media. Television shows and movies often show binge drinking as the “normal” way college students consume alcohol (think beer bongs). This gives students unrealistic ideas of how much the average college students drinks. In fact, when asked how much most students drink in a typical drinking situation, students consistently overestimate how much their peers drink. This false norm creates an atmosphere where people are pressured to drink more than they normally would on their own.

The long-term consequences of binge drinking

Aside from the obvious impact of heavy drinking on health, binge drinking can lead to other very unpleasant outcomes. Among college students, students that drink heavily report higher incidences of regretted sex, sexual assault, riding with a drunk driver, loss of consciousness, and going to class hungover compared to those that drink moderately.

What can parents do?

Research has shown that parents continue to influence the choices their children make long after they leave for college. Parents can decrease the chances that their children will develop problematic drinking behaviors by doing two things: monitoring and modeling. Monitoring consists of asking a child where they are, what they are doing, and who they are interacting with. Modeling consists of setting a good example, communicating expectations, and transmitting values.

By remaining involved in their child’s life, parents may also indirectly influence who their child becomes friends with, which in turn influences their drinking behavior.

Citation:

Timberlake et. al (2007) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Abar. C, Turrisi, R. (2008) How important are parents during the college years? A longitudinal perspective of indirect influences parents yield on their college teens’ alcohol use