Blood Alcohol Level (BAL)

MONITORING
The amount of alcohol in your blood stream is referred to as Blood
Alcohol Level (BAL). It is recorded in milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters
of blood, or milligrams percent. For example, a BAL of .10 means that 1/10 of 1
percent (or 1/1000) of your total blood content is alcohol. When you drink
alcohol it goes directly from the stomach into the blood stream. This is why
you typically feel the effects of alcohol quite quickly, especially if you
haven\'t eaten for a while. BAL depends on: 1. Amount of blood (which will
increase with weight) and 2. The amount of alcohol you consume over time (the
faster you drink, the higher your BAL, as the liver can only handle about a
drink per hour--the rest builds up in your blood stream).
Understanding the effects of a rising BAL can be very useful in
controlling drinking. Below are the consequences of various Blood Alcohol
Levels,from a book by William R. Miller and Ricardo F. Munoz called, "How to
Control your Drinkling: A Practical Guide to Responsible Drinking (1982):

.02 MELLOW FEELING. SLIGHT BODY WARMTH. LESS INHIBITED.

.05 NOTICEABLE RELAXATION. LESS ALERT. LESS SELF-FOCUSED. COORDINATION
IMPAIRMENT BEGINS.

.08 DRUNK DRIVING LIMIT. DEFINITE IMPAIRMENT IN COORDINATION AND JUDGMENT.

.10 NOISY. POSSIBLE EMBARRASSING BEHAVIOR. MOOD SWINGS. REDUCTION IN REACTION
TIME.

.15 IMPAIRED BALANCE AND MOVEMENT. CLEARLY DRUNK.

.30 MANY PASS OUT.

.40 MOST PASS OUT; SOME DIE.

.50 BREATHING STOPS. MANY DIE.

As can be seen, the most reliably pleasurable effects of alcohol occur
when BAL rises to about .03-.05. Alcohol researchers have discovered that low
levels of alcohol have a specific effect on thinking; alcohol results in a
reduction of "self-monitoring." (Hull & Reilly, 1986). What this means is that
small quantities of alcohol enable you to take your mind off yourself and your
worries. Not surprisingly, this effect reduces tension and enhances relaxation
in many people. Some people find this effect so rewarding that they continue to
drink. Unfortunately, these relaxing effects diminish as BAL rises above .05.
Instead emerge a host of negative effects, such as less emotional control,
coordination and judgment impairment, hangovers and obnoxious behavior.
One way of controlling alcohol is to learn to gauge BAL by internal
sensations and to attend to the reinforcing signs of a low BAL. Doing so will
enable you to be more in control of how much you drink and, by focusing your
attention on the initial pleasurable effects, be able to enjoy alcohol with less
negative consequences. Blood Alcohol Level Charts are available in a number of
resources. For example, "How to Control your Drinking: A Practical Guide to
Responsible Drinking" (Miller & Munoz, 1982) Contains tables which list BAL
values by gender, weight, number of drinks consumed and number of hours drinking.

THE FINAL CALL BREATHALYZER is a very useful tool in monitoring BAL.
The one-time use breathalyzers are small glass tubes which contain yellow
crystals that have been impregnated with a reactive chemical that turns green
when alcohol is present. One must breath into the balloon provided and then let
it deflate into the tube. The BAL reading appears in about a minute. Final Call
assesses BAL with a margin of error of plus or minus .02. The Final Call
Breathalyzer is useful because your BAL can be quickly assessed so that you get
immediate feedback.

Category: Social Issues