Alcohol Facts

General Information

The legal drinking age throughout the United States is 21!

Alcohol is a drug. A drug is simply "Any substance which when absorbed into a living organism may modify one or more of its functions." Alcohol is the most commonly used and widely abused drug in the world.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system.

Alcohol affects your brain… Loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.

Alcohol affects your body… As it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, every organ is affected which may increase the risk of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.

Alcohol can kill you… Drinking large amounts at one time or very rapidly can cause alcohol poisoning, which can lead to coma and death.

The liver can only effectively process one (1) standard drink per hour.

Standard Alcoholic Drink
Image of standard drink sizes for mixed drinks, wine, and beer

Beer, wine, and hard liquor (distilled spirits) all contain alcohol. The following common alcoholic drinks contain equal amounts of alcohol and are considered one (1) standard drink:

  • One mixed drink containing 1.5 fl oz (44 mL) of 80-proof hard liquor, such as gin, whiskey, or rum
  • One 5 fl oz (148 mL) glass of wine
  • One 12 fl oz (355 mL) bottle of beer or wine cooler

Proof is the amount of alcohol in hard liquor or distilled spirits. The percentage of pure alcohol in the hard liquor is usually one-half the proof. For example, a 100-proof liquor is about 50% pure alcohol. Thus, the higher the proof, the more pure alcohol the hard liquor contains.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a pattern of excessive alcohol use that increases a person's blood alcohol content very rapidly. For men, binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks in a row and for women, 4 or more drinks in a row.

Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including but not limited to:

  • Unintentional injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, burns, drowning)
  • Intentional injuries (e.g., firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence)
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
Blood Alcohol Content

The definition of blood alcohol content is the concentration of alcohol in one's bloodstream, expressed as a percentage. Blood alcohol content, or BAC, is used to determine whether a person is legally intoxicated, especially in operating or attempting to operate a motor vehicle.

In Kansas, it is illegal to operate or attempt to operate a motor vehicle while having a BAC of .08% or above. If you are under 21 years of age, the Zero Tolerance Law makes it illegal to operate or attempt to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .02 or above.

There are many factors that can affect a person's BAC:

  • Alcohol content of drinks consumed
  • Period of time drinks are consumed
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Personal Health
  • Food Consumption
  • Medication
BAC Chart for Men
Drinks Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage
Body Weight in Pounds Notes
100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
Subtract .01% for each 60 minutes of drinking.
One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 5 oz. of wine, or 12 oz. of beer.
0 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 Only Safe Driving Limit
1 .04 .03 .03 .02 .02 .02 .02 .02 Driving Skills Significantly Affected
Possible Criminal Penalties
2 .08 .06 .05 .05 .04 .04 .03 .03
3 .11 .09 .08 .07 .06 .06 .05 .05
4 .15 .12 .11 .09 .08 .08 .07 .06
5 .19 .16 .13 .12 .11 .09 .09 .08 Legally Intoxicated
Criminal Penalties
6 .23 .19 .16 .14 .13 .11 .10 .09
7 .26 .22 .19 .16 .15 .13 .12 .11
8 .30 .25 .21 .19 .17 .15 .14 .13
9 .34 .28 .24 .21 .19 .17 .15 .14
10 .38 .31 .27 .23 .21 .19 .17 .16 Death Possible
BAC Chart for Women
Drinks Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage
Body Weight in Pounds Notes
90 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
Subtract .01% for each 60 minutes of drinking.
One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 5 oz. of wine, or 12 oz. of beer.
0 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 Only Safe Driving Limit
1 .05 .05 .04 .03 .03 .03 .02 .02 .02 Driving Skills Significantly Affected
Possible Criminal Penalties
2 .10 .09 .08 .07 .06 .05 .05 .04 .04
3 .15 .14 .11 .10 .09 .08 .07 .06 .06
4 .20 .18 .15 .13 .11 .10 .09 .08 .08 Legally Intoxicated
Criminal Penalties
5 .25 .23 .19 .16 .14 .13 .11 .10 .09
6 .30 .27 .23 .19 .17 .15 .14 .12 .11
7 .35 .32 .27 .23 .20 .18 .16 .14 .13
8 .40 .36 .30 .26 .23 .20 .18 .17 .15
9 .45 .41 .34 .29 .26 .23 .20 .19 .17
10 .51 .45 .38 .32 .28 .25 .23 .21 .19 Death Possible
Blackouts vs. Passing Out

Blackouts, sometimes referred to as alcohol-related memory loss or "alcoholic amnesia", occur when people have no memory of what happened while intoxicated. These periods may last from a few hours to several days. During a blackout, someone may appear to be fine; however, once sober, he/she has no recollection of events.

Passing out happens when someone loses consciousness from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Losing consciousness means that the person has reached a very dangerous level of intoxication; furthermore, he/she could slip into a coma and die. If someone has passed out, seek immediate medical attention.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:

  • Unconscious or passed out and cannot be awakened
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Irregular, slow breathing (8 breaths or less per minute)
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin

If you or your friends are experiencing any of these symptoms while intoxicated, seek immediate help.

What to Do:

  • Call 911
  • Stay with your friend until help arrives
  • Turn your friend on his or her side
  • Monitor breathing closely

Hesitating to act can mean the difference between life and death.

What NOT to Do:

  • Leave your friend alone
  • Let your friend "sleep it off"
  • Allow your friend to drive
  • Give your friend food, liquid, medication or drugs
  • Encourage your friend to walk, run or exercise
  • Put your friend in a cold shower

You are ALWAYS doing the right thing by getting help.

Sobering Up

The only way to become sober is time. Eating, drinking coffee or energizer drinks, sleeping, taking a cold shower – none of these things will help you become sober. For every drink a person consumes, he or she must let an hour pass without taking in any more alcohol before being sober. It is true that drinking water will help with dehydration and dehydration is a major cause of hangovers but drinking water will not sober you up.


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