can 8 abv get you drunk

Whether you’re spending time with friends or trying to unwind after a long day, many of us enjoy having a cocktail or cracking open a cold beer occasionally.

While consuming alcohol in moderation is unlikely to be harmful, drinking in excess can have considerable negative health effects.

But how exactly does alcohol affect your body? How much alcohol is too much? And are there ways to drink safely? Continue reading as we explore the answers to these questions and more below.

When we drink alcohol, its first destination is the stomach. It’s here that alcohol begins to be absorbed into your bloodstream.

If you don’t have food in your stomach, the alcohol will likely pass into your small intestine rather quickly. The small intestine has a much higher surface area for absorption than your stomach, meaning alcohol will enter your blood faster.

If you’ve eaten, your stomach will be focused on digesting the food. Therefore, alcohol will move out of your stomach more slowly.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol can move to other organs of the body, including the liver. The liver is responsible for breaking down most of the alcohol that you consume.

can 8 abv get you drunk

Legal and illegal limits of BAC

The United States has defined a “legal limit” for BAC. If you’re found to be above the legal limit, you’re subject to legal penalties such as arrest or a DUI conviction.

In the United States, the legal BAC limit is 0.08 percent. The legal limit for drivers of commercial vehicles is even lower – 0.04 percent.

Is there a way that you can tell your level of intoxication? The only way that BAC levels can be measured is by using a breathalyzer test or a blood alcohol test.

The charts below may be helpful for reference. They show the weight, legal limits, and levels of intoxication for men and for women.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2020–2025, a standard drink is defined as 14 grams (or 0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.

Remember that alcohol levels can vary by specific beverage. For example, by these guidelines, 12 ounces of an 8 percent beer is technically more than one drink. Similarly, a mixed drink such as a margarita likely contains more than one drink as well.

So what are some good guidelines for moderate levels of drinking? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2020-2025 defines moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.

These guidelines are generally safe for most people. Some other recommendations for safe alcohol consumption include:

  • Be sure not to drink on an empty stomach. Having food in your stomach while drinking can slow alcohol absorption.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated. Try to drink a full glass of water between each drink.
  • Sip slowly. Try to limit your consumption to one drink per hour.
  • Know your limits. Decide how many drinks you’re planning on having before starting. Don’t let others pressure you to drink more.

While drinking in moderation is unlikely to be harmful for most people, binge drinking or chronic drinking can become dangerous. When does drinking become worrisome?

Problematic drinking includes the following:

  • Binge drinking, which is defined as 4 drinks in 2 hours for women and 5 drinks in 2 hours for men.
  • Heavy drinking, which is having 8 drinks or more per week for women and 15 drinks or more per week for men.
  • Alcohol use disorder, which involves symptoms like being unable to curb your drinking, requiring more alcohol to achieve the desired effect, and continuing to drink despite its negative effects on your life.

How the body metabolizes alcohol

Inside the liver, alcohol is metabolized, or broken down, in a two-step process:

  • Step 1: An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down alcohol to a chemical called acetaldehyde.
  • Step 2: A different liver enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase breaks down alcohol into acetic acid.

The cells of your body break acetic acid down further into carbon dioxide and water. These compounds can be easily eliminated from your body via processes like urination and breathing.

So what exactly gives us that tipsy, drunk feeling? Your liver can only metabolize so much alcohol at a time, which means that alcohol can travel through the bloodstream to other organs, such as the brain.

Alcohol is a depressant of your central nervous system (CNS). That means it has a slowing effect on your brain.

Because of this, the neurons in your brain fire off nerve impulses more slowly. This can lead to things like the impaired judgment or coordination that’s associated with drunkenness.

Alcohol can also stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure and reward and can lead to feelings like happiness or relaxation.

These feelings are joined by additional physical symptoms of intoxication such as flushing, sweating, and increases in urination.

A hangover occurs after you drink too much alcohol. Symptoms can be unpleasant and can vary by person. Here’s what causes a hangover:

  • Dehydration. Alcohol consumption causes an increase in urination, leading to fluid loss. This can lead to headache, fatigue, and feeling thirsty.
  • Irritation of the GI tract. Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach, leading to nausea and stomach pain.
  • Sleep disruption. Drinking often leads to poor sleep, which can increase feelings of tiredness or fatigue.
  • Low blood sugar. Alcohol can lead to low blood sugar, which may cause you to feel tired, weak, or shaky.
  • Acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde (the chemical formed from alcohol metabolizing in your body) is toxic and can contribute to inflammation in your body, which can make you feel like you’re sick.
  • Mini-withdrawal. Alcohol has an inhibitory effect on your CNS. When the alcohol wears off, your CNS is out of balance. This can lead to feeling more irritable or anxious.

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. As you consume additional alcohol, more and more of it enters your bloodstream.

Many factors affect how alcohol is absorbed and metabolized. These include:

  • Sex. Due to differences in alcohol metabolism, women typically have a higher BAC than men after the same amount of drinks.
  • Weight. After the same number of drinks, people with a higher body mass are more likely to have a lower BAC than someone with a lower body mass.
  • Age. Younger people may be less sensitive to some of the effects of alcohol.
  • Overall health and whether you have any underlying health conditions. Some conditions can affect the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.
  • Levels of alcohol metabolism and tolerance. The rate of alcohol metabolism and the level of alcohol tolerance can vary between individuals.

Several outside factors can also affect your blood alcohol levels. These include:

  • the type and strength of the alcohol you’re drinking
  • the rate at which you’ve consumed alcohol
  • the amount of alcohol you’ve had
  • whether or not you’ve eaten
  • if you’re using alcohol with other drugs or medications

How Many Beers to Reach .08% BAC? | Light Beer vs. IPA


Is 8% ABV high?

A high ABV for beer is going to differ from high ABVs for liquor. Beer with an ABV greater than 8% is high for beer, but with liquor it can be all over the place. For example, gin is a little lower on the scale at about 36-50% ABV, whereas vodka can be close to 95% ABV in some cases.

Is 8.0% of alcohol a lot?

In terms of alcohol, it’s like drinking one and half to two “normal” beers. So you don’t drink a lot of it at a sitting. At 8% you’ll taste alcohol, it should be a flavor component, not a dominant flavor. It will likely be “warming” due to the high alcohol content.

How long does it take for 8% alcohol to get you drunk?

It takes 30 minutes to feel the effects of alcohol. It may take an hour to metabolize a drink, but it takes approximately thirty minutes before you feel alcohol’s effects. This is a good gauge for pacing yourself. Drinking more than one drink every 30 minutes means you are probably drinking too much, too fast.

How many 8% beers does it take to get drunk?

In general, it takes about 3-4 beers for most people to reach a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is the legal limit for driving in many countries.

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