First, here's a working definition of a standard drink: it contains a half-ounce of alcohol - the amount you'd find in a 12-ounce can of beer, a 4-ounce glass of table wine, or a
1-ounce shot of 100-proof distilled spirits such as whiskey or vodka. Generally, this is the amount of alcohol a person can metabolize in about an hour, although many other factors can affect metabolism.
So right away you can see that all drinks are not created equal. Many drinks contain considerably more than a half-ounce of alcohol; that's why a double is called a double. Even the seemingly-innocent wine cooler can pack a wallop: many wine coolers have nearly twice the alcohol content of a 12-ounce beer!
The standard way of measuring how much alcohol is in the bloodstream is the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) test.
Knowing something about your Blood Alcohol Content will help you understand the effects of varying amounts of alcohol in your system, and allow you to make informed decisions about drinking.
- Blood Alcohol Content is measured in milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or milligrams percent.
- For example, a BAC of .10 means that one-tenth of 1% (or 1/1000) of your total blood content is alcohol. This means that a BAC of .05 and below may give you a mellow buzz; a BAC of .50 and higher could cause death.
- Blood Alcohol Content depends largely on two things: body size (the bigger you are, the more blood you have to dilute the alcohol) and how much you drink at any one time (the faster you drink, the higher your BAC, since the body has less time to dilute the alcohol).