Saturday, March 17, 2012 is St. Patrick’s day, a day which many people enjoy by hitting the bars, sitting on patios and enjoying some alcohol. I think St. Patrick’s day is probably one of the holidays most closely associated with drinking, so this week let’s talk about binge drinking.
The technical definition of binge drinking is having more than five (for males) or four (for females) drinks in one occasion. At the university level, I think this definition is not exactly the best fit, as a large percentage of students would be “binge drinking” quite frequently.
Let’s just say binge drinking is consuming more alcohol at an event than you can handle (this number is going to be different for everyone.) The amount of alcohol you can handle can also differ depending on what you are drinking and the circumstances.
The way “drunkenness” is scientifically measured is through blood alcohol concentration (BAC). When alcohol is consumed, it absorbs through the membrane of the stomach and the intestines and then into the blood stream. Typically alcohol will hit the blood stream starting 30 minutes after consumption.
Generally, the more alcohol you drink, the higher your BAC will be. If I drink one drink, my BAC would be different than someone 30 pounds heavier than me also drinking the same drink. Your BAC is based on a number of factors besides how much alcohol you actually consume. If you drink a lot in a short period of time, your BAC will peak and be higher than if you had the same number of drinks over a longer period of time.
Generally, men can drink more than women and have the same BAC because women generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men do.
Alcohol is not easily absorbed into fat cells, and thus stays in the blood stream of a female longer than a male. Your weight can also affect your BAC. If you weigh more, you have more water present in your body which can dilute the alcohol and lower your BAC.
Eating while drinking can also affect your BAC. Thus, having food in your stomach will slow the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream.
I’m not here to discourage you from drinking — it’s fun. While alcohol consumption carries health risks, it’s generally associated with long term alcohol abuse or extreme intoxication leading to alcohol poisoning. So pace yourselves this St. Patrick’s day, drink lots of water, and eat some delicious pub grub.