How Much is Too Much Alcohol?

too much alcoholHow much is too much alcohol? There isn’t one answer that fits all—everyone is different. Legally, you are considered intoxicated if your blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.08% or above, and the general rule is one drink per hour will help you stay within your safe limit.[1] What is the equivalent of a drink? Twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.1 Still, the general rule doesn’t apply to everyone, as so many different factors come into play when you drink.1

What is in your stomach can make a difference.1 Although even large meals cannot negate the effects of alcohol, it can slow its absorption.1 If a person drinks on an empty stomach, they can reach their peak blood alcohol content in just 30 minutes, while a person who has eaten a meal will reach it in one to six hours.1 Still, food cannot be depended upon to help keep you sober.1

Your body type has a lot to do with how much is too much alcohol for you.1 It’s a common misconception that those extra pounds you’ve been wanting to lose will finally do you some good, as people believe that the more you weigh, the less alcohol affects you.1 However, if you are more muscle than fat, alcohol will absorb quicker, while if you are more fat than muscle, it will absorb slower and give you a higher BAC.1

While we know what is the equivalent of one drink, what is in your drink may play a large role in increasing your BAC.1 Drinks with a high alcohol content, a mix of different alcohols, those that include carbonated beverages, and hot drinks are absorbed more quickly and will increase your BAC faster.1

Women are at a disadvantage, as they naturally have more body fat, smaller amounts of body water, and less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol; therefore, they often reach their BAC more quickly than men.1 Too much alcohol for women is often less than too much alcohol for men.

Medicines can also enhance the effects of alcohol, such as antidepressants, antibiotics, pain killers, cold medicines, and aspirin.1 Some even have dangerous side-effects when mixed with alcohol.1 This is an important factor to take into consideration.

If you are dehydrated or tired, your liver isn’t able to process alcohol as well, which can boost your BAC.1 So, too much time in the sun and too many adult beverages can be a bad combination.1 Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes your kidneys to direct more fluid to your bladder, leading you to become dehydrated.1 The more alcohol you drink, the more liquid you lose.1

There is no magical calculator that can take all of your personal data and tell you what your BAC will be in different situations.1 To be safe, never drink and drive.

[1] Sack, D. (2014, March 25). How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201403/how-much-alcohol-is-too-much

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