A friend recently asked, how many drinks does it take before I would be considered legally drunk? My answer was “it depends.” There are many ways to measure your BAC (blood alcohol content) level, but it is difficult to predict all of the variables that will ultimately contribute to your BAC score.
What the Law Says
Anyone will a BAC level of .08% is considered legally drunk in all states including Louisiana and Mississippi. If you are under the age of 21, you would be legally drunk with a BAC level of just .02%. Your BAC level is, of course, vitally important if you will be out driving. A 17 year old, for example, who drives with a BAC level of only.03% would be arrested for drunk driving. That would usually be just one drink, but your personal BAC level depends on a number of different factors.
Blood Alcohol Level Depends on 5 Factors
BAC level is influenced by a person’s body mass – so the number of drinks needed to reach .08% varies from person to person. Generally speaking, the bigger you are, the more drinks it would take to be considered drunk. People react differently to alcohol, though – some people metabolize alcohol more quickly than others, so weight is not the only factor.
How quickly you drink the alcohol has a big impact on your BAC level – having two drinks in one hour would result in a lower BAC level than consuming three drinks in one hour.
The type of alcohol you consume also helps determine your BAC. The more concentrated the drink, the faster your body will absorb the alcohol and the higher your BAC level. Tequila has a much higher concentration of alcohol than beer, for example, so you would need to drink less tequila than beer to be considered legally drunk. However, carbonated drinks such as beer also speed up absorption of alcohol.
Another factor that will help determine your BAC level is whether you have food in your stomach – food slows absorption of alcohol. So if you wanted to keep your BAC levels down, you might avoid concentrated alcohol and carbonated drinks (no rum and coke!), drink slowly, and eat a big meal first – especially if you are petite.
To recap, the following factors will determine how high your BAC level will be:
1. Body size — generally, the more body mass you have, the more drinks you need to reach .08%
2. How quickly your body metabolizes alcohol
3. How fast you drink
4. The drink itself: the type of alcohol and whether the drink is carbonated
5. How much food you have eaten
Your BAC level doesn’t really matter, however, if you have a designated driver and avoid driving entirely. You might embarrass yourself or feel bad the next day, but as long as you are not driving, the only person you are hurting is yourself.