Blood Alcohol Level

Blood Alcohol Level

Blood Alcohol Level

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    A blood alcohol test is a laboratory examination on a sample of blood, usually taken from a vein in your arm, to determine the concentration of alcohol in your blood. When you drink alcohol, it is processed quickly through your gastrointestinal tract and absorbed into your bloodstream. Your blood alcohol level continues to rise for 30 to 90 minutes after you have your last alcoholic beverage.

    There are several different reasons why a medical professional might do a blood alcohol test. If you are presenting in an emergency room, the ER staff needs to know your blood alcohol concentration to make sure not to give you any medicines that could interact with alcohol and to help guide your treatment. Legally a blood alcohol test result can be an important piece of evidence if someone is in a motor vehicle accident after drinking.

    Each person's response to alcohol varies. The blood alcohol test measures the level of alcohol in your blood in terms of grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood. In the United States, someone is considered legally drunk if their blood alcohol test reveals a blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL. A blood alcohol test is accurate only within a six-to 12-hour window after drinking.
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    Blood alcohol content (BAC) can be measured in several ways, by blood tests, breath tests, urine tests, or saliva tests. Blood tests are the most accurate of these; breath tests (the Breathalyzer) are next, followed by urine and saliva tests. The amount of alcohol in the blood is expressed as milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL; in the US, a driver with a reading greater than 80 mg/dL is considered to be legally intoxicated. This is the same as .08 g/dL. Breath tests measure alcohol content in the blood by measuring the amount of alcohol being exhaled; it is not a direct measurement but provides an estimate that correlates to blood alcohol content. Similarly, urine tests provide a rough correlation with BAC, usually estimated at a ratio of 1.33 : 1, but urine alcohol content varies quite a bit among individuals and the urine test is not preferred to determine intoxication. Saliva tests use a colored strip to detect presence and amount of alcohol, but this too varies widely amount individuals and is not often used to determine intoxication. 
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    A self-test for breath alcohol uses a hand-held device to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood by measuring the amount of alcohol in your breath when you exhale. As with all types of blood alcohol concentration tests, a self-test for breath alcohol helps you to know how much alcohol it takes to raise your blood-alcohol level to a point where your judgment is impaired, your muscular coordination is impacted and your reaction time becomes longer. These are all signs that certain activities, including driving a motor vehicle, could be dangerous.

    There is no standard amount of alcohol that is safe for everyone. Each person's response to alcohol varies, depending on factors such as weight, gender and speed of consumption. It is illegal in every US state to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. Some restaurants and bars will provide you with a self-test for breath alcohol before you leave the establishment. You can also purchase self-tests for breath alcohol at pharmacies.