Although most people know that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if their blood alcohol content is at .08 or higher, fewer people understand how many drinks it actually takes to get to that level. The truth is that there is no right answer, as alcohol affects everyone differently.
Various factors determine how fast an individual absorbs and metabolizes alcohol. This means that two people, even of similar body types, can have drastically different BAC levels after consuming the same number of drinks.
In general, males can drink more than females. The UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services states it is partly because they weigh more, but they also have more alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps break down alcohol. Higher levels of body fat also lead to faster intoxication.
BAC rises faster when someone drinks on an empty stomach. To slow the rate of absorption, it is smart to eat and drink water before consuming alcohol. Drinking water along with alcohol also slows absorption and reduces the chances of getting a hangover.
Drinking fast causes BAC levels to rise quicker. There is less of a chance of intoxication when slowly sipping on a drink as opposed to taking shots or chugging a beverage.
According to the University of Notre Dame Student Well-Being McDonald Center, taking medications while consuming alcohol can not only speed up intoxication but also cause additional adverse interactions.
A person’s emotional state also contributes to alcohol’s effects. Anger, anxiety and depression can alter the stomach’s enzymes, which affects how the body metabolizes alcohol.
Before starting a night of drinking, one should keep these various factors in mind. Because alcohol affects everyone differently, it is always a good idea to plan for alternate transportation. One thing to be aware of is that though having a high tolerance may allow someone to drink more before they begin to feel its effects, it does not have any bearing on BAC levels, which can be especially dangerous.