In the emergency response industry, it is unfortunate but true that your job will see you dealing with situations where alcohol consumption has caused detrimental and sometimes tragic situations. While there is no safe level of alcohol consumption while driving, Australia has strict laws about drinking alcohol and driving.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is the term applied to the level of alcohol present in a person’s blood stream. A BAC of 0.05% means you have 0.05 grams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood. In VIctoria the legal limit for full licensed drivers is set at below 0.05 BAC. Learners and probationary license-holders must have a 0.00 BAC.
Whilst the laws apply to everyone, every individual will absorb and metabolise alcohol at a different rate. It is believed that the body can fully metabolise one standard drink an hour. However with the serving size of drinks often above the standard drink size and the various factors that can alter this rate, the practice of monitoring consumption gets very difficult.
The following are just a few factors that can affect the BAC levels of different people.
- Size – Larger people may have more litres of body fluid than smaller people, meaning their BAC at the same level of consumption may be lower. However, fat does not absorb alcohol as well as muscle. In this instance, higher fat content of the larger person may mean their BAC’s could be relatively the same.
- Gender – As women carry higher body fat percentages than men, they tend to absorb alcohol into the bloodstream at a higher rate.
- Health – Alcohol stresses the body’s systems. If the body is already stressed from exhaustion, illness or injury, the effect of alcohol may be increased.
- Fitness – People with higher muscle-to-fat content will generally need more alcohol to increase their BAC. Muscle absorbs alcohol better than fat, meaning that more alcohol will end up in the blood stream of people with more fat than those with more muscle.
- Psychological – Just as effects are increased with an ill body, alcohol tends to affect depressed and worried minds at an exponential rate.
- Medication – People should avoid drinking alcohol whilst on medication, as it poses a great risk of the alcohol interacting with the medication. The effects of this can be quite unpredictable and sometimes dangerous.
- Drinking on an empty stomach – While food cannot “sober up” a person as some people tend to believe, it can slow the rate of absorption giving the body more time to metabolise.
It is impossible to gauge one’s own BAC, and therefore always best practice to have a designated driver or organise a taxi to get home. Be alert to patrons leaving venues who appear to be suffering the affects of alcohol intoxication.
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