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The Green Zone®

What is BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration)?
BAC is the amount of alcohol in your blood stream. It is recorded in milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or milligrams percent. For example, a BAC of 0.10 means that 1/10 of 1 percent (or 1/1000) of your total blood content is alcohol. When you drink, alcohol 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 in a while. BAC is affected by:

  • Body weight (blood volume increases with weight)
  • The amount of alcohol consumed
  • The concentration of alcohol per drink
  • Time spent drinking
  • Age, ethnicity, hormones and certain medications

The Ups and Downs of Alcohol
As you consume alcohol in low to moderate amounts and as your BAC is rising and below 0.06, you will likely experience the positive effects of alcohol (increases in arousal, energy and confidence). This is due to the increased amount of sugar from alcohol, as well as the alcohol initially depressing those parts of the brain that are responsible for inhibition.

However, as your BAC surpasses 0.06 (or your BAC begins to fall) you begin to experience the depressant effects of alcohol (fatigue, slowing down and lack of coordination). In hopes of avoiding the depressing effects and regaining the positive effects of alcohol, you may be tempted to drink more. Unfortunately, this is the worst thing that you can do. The more alcohol you consume -- and the higher your BAC -- the more you will experience the depressing effects of alcohol.

The depressing and negative effects of alcohol can be minimized by drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol and staying in your Green Zone® (below 0.06 BAC). Note: Tolerance, although thought to be a positive characteristic by some, is actually hampering your experience while you drink. Not only does tolerance make drinking more expensive in terms of calories and money, but tolerance also limits the initial positive effects from alcohol and causes the depressing effects at lower BAC levels.

What are BAC Zones?
Three distinct zones define the effects of alcohol on the mind and body depending upon on the level of blood alcohol concentration. Of course, individual effects may vary based on extenuating circumstances.  There is no known safe level of alcohol in the blood when driving a motor vehicle or engaging in other potentially risky activities such as swimming, boating and using power tools or firearms.  If you have one or more drinks before such activities, allow enough time to pass so that your blood alcohol level returns to zero before you begin. There is also no known safe level of drinking for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

(BAC = 0.00 - 0.059):
Light and moderate drinkers begin to feel mildly relaxed and maybe a little lightheaded. Inhibitions are slightly loosened, and your mood may mildly intensify. Your behavior may become exaggerated, making you talk louder or faster or act bolder than usual. You may also feel a mild sense of euphoria.

(BAC = 0.06 - 0.08):
You believe you are functioning better than you actually are. You may start to slur speech. Balance is probably off, and motor skills become impaired. Vision and hearing are diminished. Judgment is affected so it's difficult for you to decide whether or not to continue drinking. Your ability to evaluate sexual situations is impaired. You are more likely to take risks and cannot judge your ability to drive.

(BAC = 0.080):
Legally intoxicated in most states. Your judgment is further impaired. You are more likely to take risks and are unable to accurately assess your ability to drive.

(BAC = 0.10 - 0.15):
Legally intoxicated in almost all nations and states. Euphoric but lack coordination and balance. Motor skills are markedly impaired, as are judgment and memory. You probably don't remember how many drinks you've had.  Emotions are exaggerated, and you may become loud, aggressive or belligerent. Men may have trouble getting an erection. Reaction time and control of precise movements are clearly impaired. A person driving at this level is 10 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

(BAC = 0.16 - 0.24):
The equivalent of about one-half pint of whiskey is circulating in your bloodstream. Your euphoric feelings may give way to unpleasant feelings. You have difficulty talking, walking or even standing. Your judgment and perception are severely impaired. You may become more aggressive, and there is an increased risk of accidentally injuring yourself or others. You may get the kind of amnesia known as an alcoholic "blackout." A person driving at this BAC is 100 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

(BAC = .25):
Mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. You're emotionally numb. There's an increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falling or having other accidents. Many people lose consciousness. Severe impairment includes the potential for permanent or even fatal consequences.

(BAC = 0.300):
You're in a stupor. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may suddenly pass out (passing out is a normal protective reaction of the body to prevent continued drinking) and be difficult to awaken. (Passing out can also occur at lower BACs. But, at lower BACs, you may decide you've had enough to drink and "pass out." Your body will decide to pass out for you.)

(BAC = 0.350):
The level of surgical anesthesia.

(BAC = 0.400):
You may stop breathing. Most people lose consciousness. The nerve centers controlling your heartbeat and respiration slow down.

(BAC = 0.450):
This is a fatal dose for many people, especially when drinking a large amount of alcohol at a rapid rate. A dose of alcohol this large can paralyze brain functions, which control breathing and heart activity. When your vital functions cease, you die. This is a serious risk for those who engage in drinking contests, the most frequent cause of alcohol-related fatalities among young people.

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