Alcohol Use and Drinking Problems

Some Basics about Alcoholic Beverages

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 sex, 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.

This table, which shows BAC for number of drinks consumed in one hour, was distributed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety before that state lowered its legal BAC to less than .10 percent. Do you know what the current legal limit for BAC is in your state?

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.

Index Page Next Page