Alcohol Effects

Alcohol affects each individual differently. The affect of alcohol on a person will vary according to the person's mood, the time of day, amount of food in the stomach, the mixer used, how fast the person drinks, what and why they are drinking. There are a variety of positive consequences and negative consequences related to drinking.

Standard Drink
It is important to know the definition of one standard drink. This is because many drinks you may have over the course of a night may be stronger than others. This is especially important with mixed drinks, as many mixed drinks (even though you are only holding one cup) contain more than one standard drink.

Pictured below you will find the typical standard drinks of a 12 oz. beer, or a 4 oz. glass of wine, and a 1.25 oz. shot of hard liquor. You will also find how drinks measure up in the well-known red cup.

One standard drink of beer
  • One 12 oz. bottle of beer
  • One 12 oz. can of beer
  • One 8 oz. glass of malt liquor (i.e. Old English, Mickey's)
  • One "forty" of malt liquor is about 5 standard drinks
  • One "forty" of regular beer is about 3.5 standard drinks

One standard drink of wine

  • One 4 oz. glass of wine (pictured)
  • One 3 - 3.5 oz. of fortified wine (i.e. port, sherry)
  • One bottle of table wine is about 5 standard drinks


One standard drink of hard alcohol

  • One 1.25 oz. shot of hard liquor (pictured)
  • One mixed drink containing one 1.25 oz. shot of hard liquor
  • One 750ml bottle of hard liquor ("a fifth") is about 17 standard drinks

Standard drinks in some popular cocktails that contain more than one shot:

  • One Long Island Iced Tea is about 4 standard drinks
  • One "Adios" is about 5 standard drinks
  • One Martini is about 2 standard drinks
  • One Margarita is about 1.5 standard drinks


One standard drink in a 16 oz. "keg cup"

  • Black line shows 12 oz. of beer (one standard drink of beer)
  • 3 full keg cups of beer is about 4 standard drinks
  • 6 full keg cups of beer is about 8 standard drinks
  • 9 full keg cups of beer is about 12 standard drinks
  • Keg cup filled with wine is about 4 standard drinks
  • Keg cup filled with one mixed drink can be more than one or two standard drinks dependings on how many shots you put into it. Remember that one 1.25 oz. shot is one standard drink.


Blood Alcohol Content
Once you know the definition of one standard drink, you can estimate your Blood Alcohol Content (a.k.a. blood alcohol level, BAL). BAC levels represent the percent of your blood that is concentrated with alcohol. A BAC of .10 means that .1% of your bloodstream is composed of alcohol.

Explanation of BAC levels:

    .020 Light to moderate drinkers begin to feel some effects.
    .040 Most people begin to feel relaxed.
    .060 Judgment is somewhat impaired.
    .080 Definite impairment of muscle coordination and driving skills. This is the legal intoxication level in most states (including California).
    .100 Clear deterioration of reaction time and control. This is legally drunk in all states.
    .120 Vomiting usually occurs (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance to alcohol).
    .150 Balance and movement are impaired. At this BAC level, an equivalent of 1/2 pint of whiskey is circulating in the blood stream.
    .150-.25 Most people begin to experience blackouts.
    .300 Many people lose consciousness.
    .400 Most people lose consciousness and some die.
    .450 Breathing stops. This is a fatal dose for most people.

Some factors that affect BAC:

  • How many standard drinks you drink
  • Remember different drinks have different strengths either because of differences in proofs of hard liquor or because some drinks contain more than one shot
  • Food eaten along with drinking alcohol will result in a lower, delayed BAC because the alcohol enters the bloodstream at a lower rate

Signs of Intoxication

  • A person is overly friendly;
  • Someone talking loudly, bragging, or using foul language;
  • You will usually find the person annoying or arguing with others;
  • The inability to light a cigarette, or attempting to light more than one cigarette at a time;
  • Someone with slurred or slowed speech, who tends to lose their train of thought;
  • A person who complains about the service;
  • Spills the drink or missed their mouth;
  • Glassy eyes, dilated pupils, inability to focus, sleepy look, and bobbing head;
  • Sudden or unexplained mood changes;
  • Drinking faster than usual;
  • Staggering, swaying, or the inability to walk.
Consequences Home

Last revised: June 2012

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