What is BAC (Blood Alcohol Content)?

Alcohol has been a tool for celebration and relaxation for many centuries. It has also been a source of great frustration and anger for many who have been affected by the negative outcomes of excessive use. For new drinkers, understanding how different types and amounts of alcohol affect individual people can be a bit of a learning curve. To really understand alcohol’s effects on the body, it is important to grasp the concept of BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content.

BAC measures the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, and the ratio of alcohol to blood. So, for example, if your BAC was .10, you would have one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood. This may seem simple enough, but a person’s weight and gender is also a factor in how much alcohol is metabolized, and how much remains in the blood stream. BAC is also calculated at the rate of how many drinks are consumed per hour. The liver can only process one drink per hour, so drinking in excess of that, or nursing a drink over the course of an evening, can swing your BAC much higher or lower.

Another important factor in understanding BAC is knowing what is considered “a drink” across the board for different types of alcohol. For beer, one drink is considered 12 ounces of standard 5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) beer. With liquor, it’s 1.5 ounces of 80 proof whiskey, vodka, brandy, tequila, gin, etc. And for wine, five ounces of standard white or red table wine is considered a glass of wine, or one drink. Knowing exactly what you’ve had to drink (which, while drinking, can be hard to keep track of) can be crucial in calculating your BAC and in decision-making throughout your evening.

Other things that affect BAC besides gender, weight, and the amount and type of drinks consumed include the amount of food and water in your system before, during, and after a night of drinking; ethnicity; and your family history of drinking and alcohol dependence. It may seem like a lot of research to have a night of fun, but being in control of your consumption of alcohol can prevent decisions that in retrospect, you may have wish you hadn’t made.

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