As we approach the Festive Season – or should that be the Silly Season – many normal, responsible people who generally only have a drink or two on a weekend, will make a fool of themselves at the office Christmas party by downing too many beers, wines or champagnes. While the embarrassment of flirting with the boss’ wife or falling over on the dance floor may take some time to get over, failing an alcohol test on the road or at work the next day might take even longer.
Which is why, after a night out of drinking alcohol, you should be asking yourself the next morning, am I okay to drive and work? Would I pass an alcohol test?
The difficulty is that without actually having an alcohol test, knowing whether you are over the limit or not can be difficult to determine. Most people are going to feel a little under the weather after a night of excessive drinking and the symptoms they experience can mask or even be similar to those of still being tipsy.
So what does the science say? Is there a way of determining whether you would pass an alcohol test the next morning?
Scientifically, it is relatively possible. So, for example, we know:
- It takes the average person about one hour to process one standard alcoholic drink.
- That one standard drink will increase the average person’s blood alcohol level to about 0.015.
- If you drink a little over 3 standard drinks in an hour the average person’s blood alcohol level is likely to be close to the 0.05 limit.
- Once your blood alcohol level is 0.05, it will take over 3 hours for your body to process the alcohol, to the point where you will be close to zero again.
- So, if you have a 0.1 blood alcohol level it will take at least 6 hours for your body to process all the alcohol; 0.2 and you’ll need 12 hours.
- In Australia, a standard alcoholic drink is 10 grams of alcohol.
- A 375ml can of full-strength beer is 1.4 standard drinks.
- 100ml of wine is 1 standard drink.
- 30ml of spirits is 0.95 standard drinks.
That’s great, so armed with a calculator on your big night out you should be okay to work out if you would pass an alcohol test the next morning.
But hang on, there’s something important you need to allow for in your calculations. You also need to allow for individual factors. That’s because the amount of alcohol your body will be able to process may be reasonably different to the amount of alcohol someone else can process. Age, body size, sex, body fat, general health, tiredness and how much you’ve had to eat can all play a part. Have you ever noticed how one drink can make you feel tipsy one day, and on another day you can have 2 or 3 without feeling slightly tipsy? That’s those individual factors in play and they can make a big difference.
The crux of all this is simple, unless you are the type of person who’s going to take a measuring device to determine how much alcohol you drink, a note pad to keep tabs on your consumption and a calculator to work it out at the end of the night, at best you’ll only be able to estimate your blood alcohol level and whether you would pass an alcohol test.
The other thing to remember is that failing an alcohol test may be a small price to pay compared to a possible alternative. What if you drive or work while over the limit and cause an accident? What if you’re responsible for the death or serious injury of another person while under the influence of alcohol?
When you think about these types of consequences, taking the risk is certainly not worth it.