Understanding a Standard Drink
Despite the marvelous advancements made in technology and medicine over the past few decades there are still a few things that remain a mystery. One of these mysteries concerns blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. Although doctors understand how the body processes and absorbs alcohol as it is consumed, it is not possible to accurately predict a person's BAC based on their consumption. However, there is some confusion based on "standard" drinks and consuming in moderation.
Different Types of Alcohol
Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. Most people realize that certain types of drinks such as vodka or rum are much stronger than a typical beer or a wine cooler. But most people do not fully understand the vast difference between the various drinks. Most police jurisdictions and state offices will use a chart similar to the one below to persuade people to drink in moderation.
|Type of Drink||Number of Ounces||Percent of Alcohol||Ethanol Content|
|Beer||12 ounces||5%||0.6 ounces|
|Wine||5 ounces||12%||0.6 ounces|
|Sherry/Port||3 ounces||20%||0.6 ounces|
|Whiskeys||1.5 ounces||40%||0.6 ounces|
As you can see from the chart, the amount of ethanol is the determining point for a standard drink. But this chart is a little misleading.
Variances Among Categories
Consider for a moment the beer category. Beer is an extremely popular beverage across an assorted group of demographics. But not everyone drinks the same kind of beer. Some people like to drink a lager, which is a lite type of beer and only contains about 4% of alcohol. However, some people like a stout beer, which contain as much as 8% of alcohol. This does not sound like a huge difference, but in reality it means that one stout has double the alcohol as a lager. If there are two friends at a party and one is drinking lager while the other chooses stout, they will have extremely different levels of intoxication even if they are consuming the same number of drinks over the same amount of time.
Smaller Drinks, Bigger Punch
Another general misconception deals with the more powerful beverages such as brandies and whiskies. You might hear a conversation at a gathering such as "My buddy drank 6 beers but I only drank half a pint of Wild Turkey. He is wasted, but I am fine." However, even though one guy drank 6 beers, which is about 72 ounces, and the other guy only had 8 ounces of whiskey, they actually consumed a near equal amount of alcohol. People who prefer to drink tequila, rum, vodka, or whiskey need to understand that every time they finish off a shot or glass they are really consuming two or three "standard" drinks.
Tolerance Does Not Matter
We have all seen it. One person drinks two wine coolers and they are singing their head off while they tell everyone within earshot how much they love them. Another guy finishes off 4 glasses of tequila and his demeanor and actions are exactly the same before he started. Alcohol affects people in different ways. However, the ability to control emotions and actions has no bearing on BAC.
A person's body absorbs and processes alcohol regardless of any external indication. As a person consumes beverages over the course of an evening it usually takes approximately 30 minutes to an hour for the person's BAC to reach its peak after one drink. This means if a person is drinking at a steady pace over a 4 hour party, at the end of the party their blood will contain a small part of alcohol from all of the drinks consumed previously and a large part of the most recent drink.
This information is not intended to push people away from one kind of drink and towards another drink. Nor is this designed as an admonishment against alcohol. But having the right information before indulging in a few alcoholic drinks can give people a better idea of the likely affects of the drinks on their body and how they can plan their activities in order to make sure they get home safe.
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