Preventing Alcohol Abuse

What's In a Drink?

Few student drinkers keep track of how many drinks they actually consume. Calculations for determining how intoxicated a person is, is based on a "standard drink," which contains 1/2 oz. of alcohol, regardless of the quantity of other ingredients mixed. Many alcoholic beverages are labeled with a percent alcohol by volume, but most beers are not.

The following chart adapted from information obtained from Virginia Tech shows how much alcohol is in some drinks.

Percent Alcohol By Volume

Type of DrinkPercent Alcohol (Average)Percent Alcohol (Range)
Light Beer 4.2 3.8 - 4.4
Beer 4.5 4.1 - 4.9
Ice Beer 5.5 5.0 - 5.9
Ale 4.5 4.0 - 6.0
Porter/Stout 6.5 6.0 - 8.0
Wine 12.0 7.1 - 14.2
Chardonnay 12.5 11.0 - 14.0
Other Whites 10.0 7.1 - 12.0
Reds 13.0 12.0 - 14.2
Vodka 40.0 40.0 - 50.0
Gin 42.5 40.0 - 48.5
Rum 45.0 40.0 - 95.0
Tequila 45.0 45.0 - 50.5
Brandy 42.0 40.0 - 43.0
Whiskey 50.0 40.0 - 75.0

Effects of Alcohol On The Body

BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) refers to the milligrams of alcohol per 100 milligrams of blood, usually expressed as a percentage. For example, .10 BAC is 1 part alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood.

The following Chart adapted from information obtained from Virginia Tech demonstrates the state of an individual at various levels of BAC.

BACChanges in feelings and personalityPhysical and Mental Impairments
.01 -.06 Relaxation, Sense of Well-Being, Loss of Inhibition, Lowered Alertness Thought, Judgment, Coordination, Concentration
.07 - .10 Blunted Feelings, Disinhibition, Extroversion, Impaired Sexual Pleasure Impaired Reflexes, Reasoning, Depth Perception, Distance Acuity, Peripheral Vision, Glare Recovery
.11 - .20 Over-Expression, Emotional Swings, Anger or Sadness, Boisterous Reaction Time, Gross Motor Control, Staggering, Slurred Speech
.21 - .29 Stupor,Inability to Understand Concepts, Impaired Sensations Severe Motor Impairment, Loss of Consciousness, Memory Loss
.30 - .39 Severe Depression, Unconsciousness or Death Bladder Malfunctions, Depressed Breathing and Heart Rate
.40 and above Unconsciousness or Death Depressed Breathing and Heart Rate

While many factors can impact actual BAC levels, a general idea can be obtained by completing an general BAC Calculator. As alcohol is consumed and BAC levels rise, an individual will experience stimulating effects such as increased energy, self-confidence, sociability and euphoria. These effects peak at .06 BAC. After this Point of Diminishing Returns, fewer positive effects will be experienced and the depressant effects of alcohol will develop causing fatigue, sloppiness, lack of balance and coordination.

Intoxication of BAC levels above a .06% can result in a condition referred to as Alcohol Myopia, or cognitive nearsitedness. An individual develops substantial decreases to reasoning abilities, judgment and concentration. Focus is drawn to immediate and obvious cues without consideration of long-term consequences. As a result of the diminished range of perception and thought processes, individuals often misperceive situations, miss subtle social cues and fail to consider the consequences of inappropriate actions. Individuals in a state of Alcohol Myopia may engage in socially unacceptable or illegal manner and place themselves or others at risk of serious injury

Differing effects of Alcohol contribute to the likelihood of aggressive behavior. In addition to a reduction in anxiety about negative consequences, an individual's thinking and problem solving ability in conflict resolution are often impaired resulting in overly emotional responses. Most commonly in men, a need to affirm personal power develops, increasing potential for conflicts.

Alcohol Poisoning Emergency

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing, heart beat and gag reflex. A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions. Even after drinking stops, alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Even if a victim survives, alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking; associated with bets, dares or games,is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious. Binge drinking is described as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting for males and four or more drinks for females.

The most commonly accepted level of BAC considered a lethal dose in half the population is between .40% and .50%

A victim may develop irregular heart and breathing patterns or stop altogether leading to death. There is also risk of Hypothermia leading to cardiac arrest or Hypoglycemia leading to seizures.

  • Of all college students, freshman are at the greatest risk from dying from binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.
  • Almost half of all the alcohol consumed by students attending 4 year colleges is consumed by underage students.
  • 83 underage college students died from alcohol poisoning from 1999 to 2005
  • Approximately 50,000 alcohol overdoses are reported each year in the US
  • Alcohol accounts for approximately 33% of all drug overdoses in the US

Critical Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental Confusion, stupor, coma or unresponsive
  • No response to pinching the skin
  • Vomiting while sleeping
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing ( 10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia, bluish skin color or paleness

If you suspect someone may have ingested a fatal dose of alcohol, help is required immediately.

Common methods to "sober" up such as drinking coffee, showering, sleeping or walking are myths and do not work. Alcohol poisoning is a toxicological emergency requiring medical intervention. Fear of embarrassment, legal repercussions or lack of knowledge about the symptoms and the seriousness of overdosing from alcohol can lead to indecision in seeking medical assistance, which can be fatal. Do not take chances when someone's life is at stake. Contact security or 911 immediately.