Understanding the seven stages of alcohol intoxication based on your blood alcohol content (BAC) can help you know your limits and stop when you need to.
According to 2019 data, 70% of Americans reported they drank alcohol in the past year. However, this drinking is not always in moderation. The same data noted that over 25% of people reported binge drinking in the past month. While alcohol consumed in moderation can be part of a healthy life, sometimes it goes too far. It is important to recognize how alcohol affects your body to stay safe and healthy in the short and long term.
Article at a Glance:
Drunk is a general term to describe the effects of alcohol on the body.
Signs of being drunk include loss of coordination or balance, poor judgment, slurred speech or vision changes.
There are seven stages of being drunk, ranging from being sober to dying.
Everyone reacts differently to alcohol, so an individual’s stages of being drunk may be different.
Know your limit with alcohol, and never get behind the wheel if your BAC is over 0.08.
What Does It Mean To Be Drunk?
When you drink alcohol, it enters the bloodstream and begins affecting your body and mind quickly. Drinking alcohol can cause someone to become drunk. Being drunk is a general term describing the effects of alcohol, such as:
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Impaired reflexes
- Slurred speech
- Vision changes
Stages of Being Drunk
There are somewhat predictable stages that a person will go through when they drink alcohol. The stages of intoxication vary from person to person based on a variety of factors. Reactions to alcohol will vary by weight, age, sex, rate of consumption, overall health, amount of alcohol used, and amount of food in the stomach.
The first stage of being drunk, known as subclinical intoxication, or being sober, occurs when the individual has consumed a small amount of alcohol and does not appear intoxicated. This stage usually occurs at a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 to 0.05 and occurs with one drink or less per hour for most people.
During this stage the effects of alcohol are not apparent or obvious, impairment may be detectable by certain tests, and behavior is nearly normal.
The second stage of intoxication is known as euphoric and occurs at a BAC of 0.03 to 0.12. Typically, this stage occurs with two to three drinks per hour for men and one to two drinks per hour for women. People frequently refer to this stage as being tipsy.
People in the euphoric stage are more social and talkative, have increased confidence and lowered inhibitions, have some motor impairment, and have diminished attention and control.
A BAC of 0.09 to 0.25 is referred to as the excitement stage. In this stage, a person may lose emotional stability and begin slurring their speech. Other people will notice that the person is drunk. This stage usually occurs in men after three to five drinks per hour and in women after two to four drinks per hour.
Additionally, they may experience perception and memory impairment, vision changes, loss of balance, and nausea and vomiting.
The confusion stage of intoxication occurs when someone reaches a BAC of 0.18 to 0.30. For most men, this stage happens when they’ve consumed more than five drinks per hour, and for women, more than four drinks per hour. A feature of this stage is blacking out or losing memory while drinking. People in this stage will likely also have their balance and coordination impaired enough to result in staggering and an inability to stand.
The following symptoms may also occur including exaggerated emotions including fear, grief or rage, double vision, and increased pain threshold.
The stupor stage occurs when someone reaches a BAC of 0.25 to 0.40. At this stage, people are at increased risk of alcohol poisoning. The gag reflex may stop working properly, and it may be possible to choke on vomit. They are also at risk for respiratory depression, so medical attention should be sought.
During stupor, people may not respond to surroundings, be completely passed out, vomit, and lose the ability to control bodily functions like urination or defecation.
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately.
Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone, contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.
When a person’s BAC reaches 0.35 to 0.50, there is a high chance of a coma. The person may be completely unconscious with no reaction to their surroundings.
Additionally, a person will likely experience body temperature drops, poor circulation, possible respiratory depression, and possible death.
The risk of death significantly increases when a person’s BAC surpasses 0.45. At this point, the body may not be able to maintain vital functions like breathing. Respiratory depression is a likely cause of death. However, remember that death is still possible at earlier stages and with other BAC figures.
How to Know Your Limit
When consumed in moderation, alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Moderate consumption is defined as one drink daily for women or two drinks daily for men. However, there may be certain times when you drink more than what’s considered moderate.
If you don’t drink often, be aware that alcohol will likely affect you more than someone who does drink regularly. For some people, it is helpful to stop drinking when they start feeling tipsy or are in the euphoric stage. While there isn’t a guarantee you will be below 0.08 BAC at this stage, it is a good marker to prevent some of the harmful effects of alcohol if you continue drinking.
If you are struggling with alcohol abuse, you are not alone. Representatives at The Recovery Village are available to discuss treatment options tailored to your situation. The call is free and confidential, and you don’t have to commit to a program to learn more about alcohol rehab. Don’t wait; call today to begin your path to recovery.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts & Statistics.” June 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021.
Dubowski, Kurt. “Stages of acute alcoholic influence/into[…]nical signs/symptoms.” The University of Oklahoma Department of Medicine, May 15, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2021.
The National Health Service. “Alcohol Poisoning.” April 1, 2019. Accessed August 5, 2021.
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Drinking Patterns and Their Definitions.” Alcohol Research Current Reviews, January 1, 2018. Accessed August 5, 2021.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Final Report: Legislative History of .08[…]ws – Introduction.” U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2001. Accessed August 5, 2021.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.