When you drink alcohol, the drug enters your bloodstream and makes you feel intoxicated. If doctors, police officers, or other professionals need to determine how intoxicated you are, they will measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Here’s what you should know about BAC and the stages of alcohol intoxication.
What Is BAC?
Your BAC is the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. The higher it is, the more intoxicated you will feel.
Whenever you drink alcohol, your BAC rises. However, not everyone reaches the same BAC after the same number of drinks. The number of drinks it takes to reach a certain BAC depends on personal factors such as:
- your sex
- your ethnicity
- your body weight and metabolism
- your overall health
- the percentage of alcohol in your drinks
- how quickly you consumed the drinks
- whether you drank on an empty stomach
- whether you mixed the alcohol with other drugs
The Stages Of Alcohol Intoxication
Most people experience similar effects at certain BAC ranges. These ranges are called the stages of alcohol intoxication. They include Sobriety/Minimal Intoxication, Euphoria, Excitement, Confusion, Stupor, Coma, and Death.
1. Sobriety/Minimal Intoxication
Sobriety occurs when you have a BAC between 0.01 and 0.05 percent. It usually means you have had 1 drink or less in the past hour.
At this stage, you may not feel intoxicated at all. However, some people experience slight impairments in judgment and reaction time.
Euphoria occurs at a BAC between 0.03 and 0.12 percent. Most women reach this range after having 1 to 2 drinks in one hour, while most men reach it after having 2 to 3 drinks in one hour.
At this stage, you will feel slightly intoxicated, or “tipsy.” Your inhibitions will lower, which means you may become more confident and talkative. You will also start to experience the negative effects of alcohol, including problems with judgment, memory, and coordination.
In addition, your reaction time and motor skills will decrease. This significantly increases your risk of a motor vehicle crash. That’s why driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is illegal.
Excitement occurs at a BAC between 0.09 and 0.25 percent. Men tend to reach this range after having 3 to 5 drinks in one hour, while women tend to reach it after having 2 to 4 drinks in one hour.
At this stage, you will feel moderately intoxicated, or “drunk.” Your judgment, memory, reaction time, and other cognitive functions will be significantly impaired at this point. You may also experience other effects, including:
- emotional instability
- slurred speech
- visions problems, such as blurriness and reduced peripheral vision
- nausea and vomiting
Confusion occurs at a BAC between 0.18 and 0.30 percent. Women generally reach this range after having 4 or more drinks in one hour, while men generally reach it after having 5 or more drinks in one hour.
At this stage, you will feel extremely intoxicated. You will have trouble walking and may even be unable to stand up.
Your memory and awareness of your surroundings will also plummet, sometimes to the point of a blackout. Blacking out means forgetting what happened while you were drunk.
Because this stage severely hinders your physical and mental functioning, it can lead to falls, drownings, and other accidents.
Stupor occurs at a BAC between 0.25 and 0.40 percent. At this stage, you become confused and unable to respond to your surroundings.
In addition, you face a high risk of alcohol poisoning, also called alcohol overdose. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the most common symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- sudden drop in body temperature
- pale, clammy, or bluish skin
- irregular or slow breathing
- irregular or slow heart rate
- loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away. When left untreated, alcohol poisoning can cause brain damage or death.
Coma occurs at a BAC between 0.35 and 0.45 percent. At this stage, your breathing and heart rate will slow to a life-threatening degree.
Your body temperature will also drop, and you will lose your gag reflex and motor responses. People at this stage require immediate medical attention.
When you reach a BAC of 0.45 or more, you are very likely to die. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 88,000 people die each year from alcohol use.
You’re more likely to die from alcohol-related causes if you live with alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction).
This disease makes you feel unable to control your alcohol consumption. If you think you or a loved one has this condition, seek help at a substance abuse treatment program.
To learn about addiction treatment options, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and other evidence-based services to help you stay sober.