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Blood Alcohol Content: What Does it Mean?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Jun 29, 2021

Blood Alcohol Content: What Does it Mean?

Blood alcohol content, also known as blood alcohol concentration, is what is used to measure the percent of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. This normally shows how intoxicated a person is. Here, learn more about the effects of alcohol content on your body and the highest blood alcohol level that is legal in the country.  

What is the Highest Blood Alcohol Level?

A blood alcohol content of .10% means that a person’s blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood. This is considered over the limit in a lot of places. 

In the Philippines, the limit for bus drivers and motorcycle drivers is 0. For those driving their own cars, it is .05. This is the highest blood alcohol level that is legally allowed.

Factors that Affect Blood Alcohol Content 

There are many factors that can affect blood alcohol content. Normally, a person’s liver can process one standard drink per hour. One drink is normally classified as

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of whiskey

However, two persons can drink the same amount of alcohol and have different blood alcohol content at the end of the night. One can reach the highest blood alcohol level, while the other will not be anywhere close.

This is due to the following reasons: 

  • Body weight
  • Biological sex 
  • Medications
  • Amount of time it took to consume the drinks. The faster you drink, the more intoxicated you become.
  • Number of drinks taken
  • Sweets or food ingested along with the drink 

Effects of Alcohol on Men and Women

Generally, men can take in more alcohol than women because of body structure. Men have less body fat and are usually bigger than a woman. In addition, women have more body fat and have lower total body water content than men.

A woman’s estrogen also affects how her body metabolizes alcohol, which increases the level of concentration of alcohol in a woman’s system. This means that it’s faster for women to reach the highest blood alcohol level.

A smaller person has less room for the alcohol to be distributed, which is why a bigger person may feel the effects of alcohol less than that of a smaller person.


It is also important to note that since alcohol is generally a depressant, you should not take any medication with it as it can increase the effect of the alcohol or can cause negative effects. You caneasily reach the highest blood alcohol level because of the supplemental factor. 

One way to dilute alcohol is by mixing it with water or juice. However, when you mix it with carbonated beverages such as soda, it speeds up the absorption process in your bloodstream. Food can help slow down the absorption. 

Tolerance and Blood Alcohol Content

A person’s tolerance does not alter blood alcohol content (BAC). A person may have a high tolerance for alcohol but the BAC will remain the same.

If a person drinks faster than one drink per hour, the alcohol stays and will just wait for its turn to metabolize, which then increases the level of intoxication. Even if a person passes out, the alcohol will continue to circulate throughout the body. 

Binge drinking increases the risks of alcohol poisoning.  Energy drinks and alcohol give you a sense of reduced alcohol effect, but your blood alcohol content will remain the same. 

Drinking coffee, having a cold shower, or running around the block will keep you alert but it will not lower your blood alcohol content. 

Side Effects of Increase in Blood Alcohol Content 

There are many potential side effects when you ingest alcohol. The more alcohol you ingest, the higher your blood alcohol content will be. In addition, the more you drink, the more you will feel the side effects. Some of the side effects of reaching the highest blood alcohol level are the following: 

  • Impaired or slurred speech 
  • Lack or loss of physical coordination 
  • Hallucination for some people 
  • Memory loss or blackouts 
  • Severe nausea or vomiting 
  • Palpitations of the heart 
  • Slow reaction time 
  • Changes in breathing
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Poor judgment
  • Loss of inhibition 
  • Blood Alcohol Levels and What They Mean

    A breathalyzer is used to quickly check for blood alcohol levels on people suspected of drunk driving. Blood alcohol levels or BAC can range from .01 – .40 and up. You may also be asked to do a blood alcohol test involving taking a little blood from the vein in your arm. This is done if there is a need for more accuracy, especially to check if you have reached the highest blood alcohol level.

    Here are the different BAC and what it can mean for a regular person. 

    .01 – .03 – With this BAC, there are no apparent effects on a person. You may feel a slight alteration in your mood. 

    .04 – .06 – At this point, you may be feeling more relaxed than usual. Inhibitions may loosen and there could be minor impairment of reasoning and memory. 

    .07 – .09 – Speech, balance, vision, and control are all affected. It is illegal to be behind a car or bike at this level onwards.

    .10 – .12 – Your speech will be slurry at this point and there is a  significant loss of motor coordination and judgment. 

    .13 – .15 – Major loss of balance is seen. Dysphoria or a sense of anxiety and major restlessness sets in. Blurred vision as well as gross impairment of motor control is also felt. 

    .16 – .24 – You are categorized as a visibly drunk. Nausea may appear. 

    .25 – .34 – You are already severely intoxicated at this point. You will not be able to walk by yourself and there will be mental confusion. Vomiting may also be present. 

    .35 – .40 – Loss of consciousness starts. 

    .41 and up – The likelihood of death due to respiratory failure is significant. The onset of a coma can also occur. 

    Key Takeaways

    Drinking alcohol is not a bad thing unless you are driving. Never drink and drive. If you do want to drink and make it a happy session, remember to drink slowly, drink less, and to keep your blood alcohol content lower than the legal limit. This ensures your safety and the lives of others.

    Learn more about a Healthy Mind here. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Jun 29, 2021

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