Blood Alcohol Content Defined, Measure, Levels, Legal Limit & Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options
What is blood alcohol content?
A blood alcohol content test measures the level of alcohol in your blood. Most people are more familiar with the breathalyzer, a test often used by police officers on people suspected of drunk driving. While a breathalyzer gives fast results, it is not as accurate as measuring alcohol in the blood and signs of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is the main ingredient of alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and liquor. When you have an alcoholic drink, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and processed by the liver. Your liver can process about one drink an hour. One drink is usually defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of whiskey.
If you are drinking faster than your liver can process the alcohol, you may feel the effects of drunkenness, also called alcohol intoxication. These include behavioral changes and impaired judgment. The effects of alcohol can vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors such as age, weight, gender, and how much food you ate before drinking.
How is blood alcohol content measured?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This process usually takes less than five minutes.
Blood Alcohol Content Levels
Your BAC level measures the amount of alcohol in your blood, therefore traveling through your body to every organ, including your brain. In its simplest form, calculating a person’s BAC level is based on how much alcohol went into what kind of body over a period of how much time.
.01 -.07 You feel mildly relaxed, a little lightheaded. Your inhibitions are loosened and you feel less cautious. Judgment abilities are slightly impaired. No real feeling of depressant effects of alcohol seen yet. Your behavior may become exaggerated and your emotions intensified.
.08-.13 Your motor skills start to become impaired and your sense of balance may be compromised. Your emotions become a bit exaggerated – perhaps loud, perhaps aggressive. It is dangerous (and illegal) for you to drive. Your judgment is impaired and you may have difficulty evaluating sexual situations. You believe you are functioning better than you actually are.
.14 -.19 The “good feelings” of euphoria begin to give way to some negative feelings such as anxiety and restlessness. You may begin feeling tired because the depressant qualities of alcohol begin to take effect. (If you are a man, you will have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.) You will have trouble walking or standing and are at a greater risk of hurting yourself physically. You may get nauseous.
.20 -.24 You feel confused and disoriented. At this point, you may experience nausea. You have trouble standing. You may not realize that you hurt yourself because you might not feel pain. Alcohol blackouts become likely at this point.
.25 -.29 Almost all aspects of your brain are severely impaired. You may have passed out by this point. Vomiting is likely and the chance of asphyxiation on your own vomit is greatly increased. If you haven’t passed out, the risk of personal injury is high because you have little to no physical control. You are emotionally numb.
.30 – .34 If you are still conscious, you are in a stupor. You likely have no comprehension of where you are or what you are doing. There have been numerous cases of alcohol poisoning and death in this range of BAC. You are in need of medical help.
.35 & up You have reached the level of surgical anesthesia. Coma is possible. The lungs and heart rate are slowing to the point of stopping. You need immediate medical help.
Your BAC is determined primarily by how much alcohol you drank, the rate of consumption, your weight, and your gender. Other influences include other drugs in your system, hydration level, food in the stomach, type of drink. 
What is it used for?
Blood alcohol content test may be used to find out if you:
- Have been drinking and driving. In the United States, .08 percent blood alcohol content level is the legal alcohol limit for drivers who are aged 21 and over. Drivers younger than 21 are not allowed to have any alcohol in their system when driving. 
- Are legally drunk. The legal alcohol limit for drinking in public varies from state to state.
- Have been drinking while in a treatment program that prohibits drinking.
- Have alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening condition that happens when your blood alcohol content level gets very high. Alcohol poisoning can seriously affect basic body functions, including breathing, heart rate, and temperature.
Young adults are at higher risk for binge drinking, which can cause alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that raises the blood alcohol content level within a short period of time. Though it varies from person to person, binge drinking is usually defined as four drinks for women and five drinks for men in a two-hour period. People may get alcohol poisoning from drinking household products that contain alcohol, such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, and certain cold medicines.
You may need a blood alcohol content test if you are suspected of drunk driving and/or have symptoms of intoxication. These include:
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Slurred speech
- Slowed reflexes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood changes
- Poor judgment
You or your child may also need this test if there are symptoms of alcohol poisoning. In addition to the above symptoms, alcohol poisoning can cause:
- Irregular breathing
- Low body temperature
For some people, alcohol abuse and alcoholism result from psychological or social factors. They may drink to calm down or loosen up in social settings. Others use alcohol to cope with psychological issues or stress in their daily lives.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism may also run in families. However, genetics doesn’t guarantee a problem with alcohol. The exact causes of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are often unknown.
You shouldn’t attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery while under the effects of alcohol.
The symptoms of alcoholism include:
- A strong desire or craving to drink
- An inability to control cravings
- An inability to stop drinking
- An increased tolerance for alcohol
- Lying about drinking
- Attempting to drink without others knowing
- An inability to get through everyday activities without drinking
The symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking to relax
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Problems with family and friends because of drinking
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Having legal problems because of alcohol
People who abuse alcohol may deny a problem, but there are ways to recognize alcohol abuse in others. People who abuse alcohol may drink often and experience family, work, or school problems because of drinking. However, they may downplay their drinking or lie about the amount of alcohol they consume.
Many people with alcoholism continue to drink even when they develop health problems related to drinking. Loved ones sometimes notice a problem before the person does. It’s important that the person dependent on alcohol acknowledges their problem. Unless the person acknowledges that they have a problem, treatment will not be successful as the person will not take treatment seriously and most likely will not benefit from the treatment offered.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Treatment for addiction isn’t as easy as taking a pill and waiting for the effects to kick in. Overcoming addiction requires time, energy, and commitment that has to come from within.
Most treatment programs favor a step-down process, starting with a strict and restrictive environment and gradually phasing down to help those in recovery to assimilate back into daily life.
1). Detox: Detox is the first stage of treatment, lasting around three to seven days based on substance. In detox, users go through drug withdrawal in order to move past the physical components of addiction. For those with long-term or severe substance abuse, medications and other therapies may be used to minimize side effects.
2). Inpatient: For three to four weeks following detox, patients reside in an inpatient care facility with limited access to the outside world. During this time, patients work with counselors and other addiction professionals in individual and group settings to facilitate healing, productive coping mechanisms, and a healthy attitude toward sobriety.
Breaking an addiction is necessary to achieve a healthier life and a stronger mind, and we have seen this breaking of said addiction being the most essential part of anyone’s recovery. Although not everyone who detoxes from drugs will experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms, it is never an easy process. For instance, alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal are the most dangerous, especially in combination. MAT in our time-honored and effective setting will reduce the pressure and anxiety that comes with the first few days of the process and heavily increase the possibility of avoiding relapse.
Our compassionate team proactively guides clients in ways to stay focused on their goals for sobriety and recovery. Our approach at We Level Up TX treatment is holistic; meaning we provide a comprehensive experience that addresses clients’ physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health & wellbeing. If needed, we provide over-the-counter medicine, as well as short-term medication-assisted alcohol treatment prescriptions for substances including Suboxone, Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram. These medications can be used to manage the more severe side effects, symptoms, and cravings that present during detox. This is all a part of our team’s role in relapse prevention.
If you are looking to take the first step toward sobriety and for understanding more about blood alcohol content, call us at We Level Up TX today.