What is a blood alcohol level test?

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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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.