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Blood Alcohol Content

That happy little buzz that comes with a cocktail is the reason many people make the cocktail hour a regular part of life. Problem is, that happy little buzz can quickly morph into an undesirable state of intoxication that takes the fun out of the party. The transition from buzzed to bumbling can occur quickly, almost unnoticeably, and it can happen unexpectedly, too, to even the most ďexperiencedĒ tippler. Knowing a little about how a cocktail affects oneís blood alcohol content (BAC) might prevent an evening of embarrassing memories.

The alcohol from a cocktail is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, where the fluid volume of the alcohol affects the balance of components in the blood. The more the alcohol, the tipsier the drinker feels.

Unfortunately, itís not enough to simply measure volume. So many other factors also affect the bloodís composition that there is no hard and fast rule to determine the difference between enough and too much of a good thing. Oneís BAC is affected by:

--- Whatís eaten (and how much of it) before and during alcohol consumption.
--- Type of cocktail being served.
--- Prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbal and other alternative remedies.
--- Oneís level of tiredness or fatigue.
--- Stress and anxiety.
--- Recent physical activity.
--- Ambient room temperature.

Some people stick with beer and wine, the ďsoftĒ spirits, while others swear by the quick results achieved from drinking hard liquors. With the other factors also in play, itís almost impossible to reach a solid conclusion but, in the eyes of the law, one serving of an alcoholic beverage is one serving of an alcoholic beverage. Period.

Legally speaking (and medically, too), one serving of alcohol contains 0.06 fluid ounce of pure alcohol. What does that 0.06 fluid ounce look like in a glass? Itís any cocktail made from 1.5 fluid ounces of any 80-proof liquor. Itís also one 12-ounce beer or one 5-ounce pour of wine.

In addition to all the other factors listed here, gender plays a big role in speed of intoxication. Pound for pound, a womanís body is 49% water while a man of the exact same weight will have a water content of 58% water per pound. A 1.5-ounce serving of alcohol will have a proportionally bigger impact on her ratio of water in the bloodstream than on his. It will take about three drinks, consumed within about one hourís time, to bring a 140-pound manís BAC to 0.08%. Heís still legally allowed to drive but it would be too risky to chance it. A 140-pound woman, however, should forget about driving. Her BAC, after consuming three drinks in about an hour, will have climbed to 0.10%, or legally intoxicated.

The effects of intoxication become obvious in different drinkers in different ways and at different times. These multiple manifestations make it almost impossible to judge sobriety based simply on the number of beverages consumed (but whoís counting, anyway?). Thatís why intoxication is always judged as the percentage of alcohol that can be measured in the bloodstream at any given time. Science evens the playing field.

Itís never illegal to drink too much and remain at home, as long as no one gets hurt in the process. Drinking does become illegal when done poorly in public, especially when a drinker tries to drive after even a single drink or two. In the United States, a BAC higher than 0.08% is legal proof that a person is too drunk to drive. Donít even try it.

But donít let the fear of the law interfere with a pleasant event, either. Just remember to drink responsibly. That means maintaining some degree of composure at all times and never, ever getting behind the wheel of an automobile after drinking even one adult beverage. There are just too many other options available these days to play silly behind the wheel.

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