Symptoms of Alcohol Impairment

The consumption of alcohol depresses the central nervous system. The more alcohol one consumes, the greater the effect on the central nervous system. When alcohol enters the body, it quickly passes through the stomach and into the small intestine. Alcohol enters the bloodstream rapidly and efficiently. Therefore, it is capable of altering the central nervous system, even in low concentrations.

The clinical symptoms of alcohol impairment vary in accordance with the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream (BAC). This concentration is determined by a number of factors, including an individual’s weight, gender, race, and amount of fatty tissue. The most accurate way to determine a person’s BAC is to perform a breathalyzer test.

In most cases, the relationship between an individual’s blood alcohol concentration and the alcohol impairment symptoms he or she experiences and/or expresses are as follows:

  • .01-.05: Individual exhibits very few behavioral differences when compared to a sober person.
  • .03-.12: Individual will begin to experience a mild euphoria that is often accompanied by increased sociability and talkativeness. At this point, they will also begin to lose inhibitions, and their self-confidence will increase. Sensory-motor impairment will begin, while judgment and control faculties are lessened.
  • .09-.25: Individual begins to experience emotional instability. They lose the ability to accurately perceive, remember, or understand. Sensory response time is decreased, while reaction time is increased. Vision accuracy and peripheral vision declines, sensory-motor skills are diminished, balance is lost, and sluggishness occurs.
  • .18 – .30: Individual will lose orientation, become confused, dizzy, and more emotionally unstable. Vision is altered so that color, shape, movement, and size are not accurately perceived. Threshold for pain is increased, and the drinker experiences the inability to walk straight, loss of muscular control, and slurred speech.
  • .25-.40: Individual will barely respond to most stimuli, will be unable to stand or walk, will vomit and/or become incontinent. Consciousness may be lost. He/she will be generally immobile.
  • .35-.50: Individual will be completely unconscious with few or no reflexes. Body temperature will drop and he/she will become incontinent. Circulation and respiration will be impaired. This concentration level is potentially fatal.
  • .45+: The respiratory system will stop working and the person will die.