Blood Alcohol Levels and Blackouts

Alcohol can interfere with the brain’s ability to form new memories. As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, so does the magnitude of the memory impairments.


(From the UCSD Student Health Services) 

BAL

Effects

0.02 - 0.03

 

You feel a little relaxed and maybe lightheaded. You haven't lost your coordination yet, but have a slight feeling of euphoria and some loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent at this level.

0.05 - 0.06

 

You feel warm and relaxed and your feelings of shyness are disappearing. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution. Your behavior may become exaggerated: you talk louder or faster and act bolder than usual. Emotions are intensified, so your good moods are better and your bad moods are worse.

0.08 - 0.09

 

You believe you're functioning better than you actually are. You may start to slur your speech, your sense of balance is off, and your motor skills are starting to become impaired. Your ability to see and hear clearly is diminished. Your judgment is being affected, so it's difficult for you to decide whether or not to continue drinking. Your ability to evaluate sexual situations is impaired. Students may refer to this state of mind as "beer goggles", but this BAC can have serious repercussions.

0.10 - 0.12

 

You are having a significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Your emotions are exaggerated, and some people become loud, aggressive, or belligerent. If you're a man, you may have trouble getting an erection at this BAC.

0.14 - 0.17

 

Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Your euphoric feelings may give way to unpleasant feelings. Your judgment and perception are severely impaired. You may become more aggressive, and there is an increased risk of accidentally injuring yourself or others. This is when you may experience a blackout.

0.20

You're feeling dazed and confused and may need help to stand or walk. If you injure yourself you may not feel the pain. If you are aware you've injured yourself, chances are you won't do anything about it. Some people have nausea and vomiting at this level. Your gag reflex is impaired and you can choke if you do vomit. Blackouts are likely at this level so you may not remember what has happened.

0.25

All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. You are emotionally numb at this point. There is an increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.

 

0.30

You're in a stupor. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may pass out suddenly and be difficult to awaken. But don't kid yourself - passing out can also occur at lower BACs. But at lower BAC, you may decide you've had enough and go "pass out". With a BAC of .30%, your body will be deciding to pass out for you.

0.35

This is the level of surgical anesthesia. You may stop breathing at this point. Coma is possible.

0.40 + Up

You are probably in a coma. The nerve centers controlling your heartbeat and respiration are slowing down. There is a real possibility of death due to respiratory arrest.

 

Alcohol and Decision Making

At a high BAC more than just memory is impaired.  Alcohol effects judgment, decision-making, and impulse control.  Individuals often act out of character when intoxicated, and do things that they frequently later regret.  In a blackout, individuals are much more likely to engage in risky behaviors (crimes, drunk driving, fights, unprotected sex), and then have no memory of what they have done.  As previously discussed, intoxicated individuals due have access to previously formed memories, including morals, ethics, rules and laws.  However, they may lose the ability to base decisions on the previous stored information, or to recognize that their actions are immoral/illegal or right/wrong.  They may not fully comprehend that there may be consequences for their actions, or they just don’t care. 

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