A night out with friends can be the highlight of our weeks, yet many people won’t even remember it. You arrive at the bar, order a round of shots, and the next thing you know, you wake up in bed. You could have a pounding headache and a hankering for relief, such as from greasy food, IV fluid treatment, or the old hair of the dog that bit you (aka more alcohol.)
Sadly, that gap of understanding can easily become the cause of a serious health emergency if not considered beforehand. Banyan’s Massachusetts addiction treatment center explores the stages of being drunk.
First Thing to Consider: What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?
Also referred to as blood alcohol content/level, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) refers to the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. For example, a BAC of .10% indicates that the individual’s blood contains one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood. How much drinking it actually takes to reach that will depend on a number of factors, including the drinker’s sex and weight, as well as the alcohol content of what they are drinking.
For reference, the standard drink sizes/alcohol content is as follows:1
- Regular beer: 12 oz = Approx. 5% alcohol
- Malt liquor: 8 to 10 oz = Approx. 7% alcohol
- A glass of table wine: 5 oz = Approx. 12% alcohol
- Shot of distilled spirits (gin, rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, and others): 1.5 oz = Approx. 40% alcohol
As stated before, the physicality of the person drinking will also play a part. What is most important is to recognize the stages of intoxication as they present themselves so that if someone near you is presenting signs of a more dangerous level, something can be done sooner rather than later.
The Recognized Stages of Getting Drunk
Kurt Dubowski of the University of Oklahoma Department of Medicine identifies the seven recognizable stages, how they can appear, and what exact BAC is present per 100 mL of alcohol at the time of these signals.2
With a BAC of 0.01 to 0.05, individuals will likely not visually exhibit any apparent signs of intoxication. They can still appear sober, despite having already consumed alcohol.
Enhanced sociability, self-confidence, and decreased inhibitions can present themselves. A BAC of 0.03 to 0.12 can also result in some sensory-motor impairment, as well as a loss of performance efficiency when being administered a sobriety test. These people are likely still able to enjoy the environment around them with a bit more self-assuredness than they had before drinking, meaning euphoria is the stage in which people feel that well-known and pleasant buzz.
0.09 to 0.25 BAC can produce a greater level of emotional instability, blurred vision, and slurred speech and can be the level at which vomiting and other physical symptoms become more likely.
Should an individual still be in a public setting, those around them may notice them dealing with a greater sense of dysphoria and disorientation. At blood alcohol levels of 0.18 to 0.30, the heightened pain threshold makes this stage even more dangerous, as a person could get severely injured and not even realize it yet.
A blood alcohol concentration of 0.25 to 0.40 will be marked by an even more impaired reaction to external stimuli. The individual can appear to be in a deep sleep while also suffering from possible incontinence. If they are unable to even stand or walk to where they need to go, medical intervention could be necessary to avoid the following two stages.
At a 0.35 to 0.50 blood alcohol content, the individual will be completely unconscious, with an abnormal body temperature. This stage can also result in the impairment of the respiratory and circulatory systems, making the possibility of death all the more likely.
Just as the name suggests, a blood alcohol level of 0.45 or greater will, in most cases, almost certainly lead to death from respiratory arrest. What is important to note is that this stage is completely preventable, but only if the proper interventions are in place. Going out drinking alone or in any kind of negative or damaging environment can result in the individual losing track of how much alcohol they are consuming. Additionally, how socially acceptable drinking and intoxication are can play a part as well.
Banyan Is Here to Help
If a person is constantly walking the lines between the more dangerous stages of being drunk, then there is likely a greater issue at play. The more times that we drink heavily, the more likely we will need to increase the number of beverages the next time we want to get drunk. Some find even a warped sense of empowerment by coming out of these dangerous situations alive and using it to excuse their next stupor. If an individual is caught in this cycle, they will never truly know what will happen.
Dubowski, Kurt. (2019): Stages of Acute Alcoholic Influence/Intoxication