Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Intoxication' May Not Always Be Visible

Date:
May 24, 2009
Source:
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
Summary:
One well-known and often deadly consequence of alcohol intoxication is impaired driving. Yet still today, it is difficult for even trained observers to fully identify "intoxication," given that so many factors contribute to it. This review examines the very definition of intoxication, as well as methods designed to prevent impaired driving.

One well-known and often deadly consequence of alcohol intoxication is impaired driving. Yet still today, it is difficult for even trained observers to fully identify "intoxication," given that so many factors contribute to it. This review examines the very definition of intoxication, as well as methods designed to prevent impaired driving.

"It is important to understand and recognize intoxication because of the risk for injury that results from it," said John Brick, lead author and executive director of Intoxikon International. "Understanding and recognizing an intoxicated person can help us make decisions about allowing a person to drive, accepting a ride from someone, or cutting off a drinker."

Key points of the review include:

  • "Obvious intoxication" as defined in some courts is not always the same as "visible intoxication."

"While most people would use these terms interchangeably to mean that someone was clearly drunk," said Brick, "laws in some states differentiate between the terms. For example, in some states 'obvious' intoxication means that if someone has consumed a large number of drinks, it should be obvious that they are intoxicated and not capable of driving. Other state laws define 'visible' intoxication as specific types of behavior, such as trouble walking, slurred speech and other common signs of alcohol intoxication. Thus, it is possible to have a unique legal situation where someone is obviously intoxicated, but not visibly intoxicated based on specific legal definitions."

In most people reliable signs of intoxication are present by casual observation at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 150 mg/dl or more, even in most tolerant individuals. At a BAC of less than 150 mg/dl, signs of visible intoxication are not reliably present in most drinkers, and the likelihood of identifying signs of impairment is less than chance.

"This presents a particular challenge to preventionists," said Brick. "For example, how do you intervene or make an informed decision about driving with someone if they do not appear visibly intoxicated? People who are too impaired to drive are not typically staggering, slurring their speech, or presenting gross signs of intoxication."

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to determine how someone can reach a BAC of 150 mg/dl, he added.

"A very small woman drinking rapidly could attain a BAC of 150 mg/dl with only four standard drinks, whereas a large man might require 10 or 12 such drinks, again depending on how long they were drinking and other scientific factors," he said. "While these analyses can be calculated scientifically based on specific individuals and circumstances, for general purposes it may be better to focus on observable signs of intoxication."

Drink counting can be a useful prevention approach in some cases.

In situations where exceptionally tolerant individuals do not show signs of visible intoxication even though they are very intoxicated, the only way to know if they are intoxicated might be to count drinks, Brick explained.

"Although helpful in some cases, this is not without difficulty because you do not know how much the person consumed before they started drinking at your restaurant or party," said Brick. "Also, if you have a policy that allows a certain number of drinks per hour, for example, you may rely on counting rather than paying attention to behavior, and end up overserving. Drink counting is also problematic in a busy bar, restaurant, or social gathering … and drink sizes can vary widely." He said there is a need for further research to establish a reasonable maximum number of drinks to be served, coupled with training to identify signs of intoxication.

"Our review is important for scientists, law enforcement and the legal community, and particularly everyday people," said Brick. "We want readers to know that just because someone who has been drinking does not look visibly intoxicated it does not mean they are not impaired to drive. Similarly, if after drinking someone is showing one or more signs of visible intoxication such decreased inhibitions, doing or saying things they would not if sober, or psychomotor impairment, showing trouble walking, standing, or slurred speech, or cognitive impairment, as in easily confused, or impaired memory, judgment and mental tasks, then that person is probably well above the legal definition of intoxication in the US and probably has a BAC in excess of 150 mg/dl. Their risk for a serious accident is also very high."

While prevention efforts have become more sensitive to drinking and driving, he said, establishing "intoxication" has also become more dependent on special tests, such as those used by police, and not available to the general public. "Ultimately," he said, "if there is uncertainty as to whether someone is intoxicated, it is better to err on the side of caution, terminate service, and arrange for alternate transportation."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Intoxication Is Not Always Visible: An Unrecognized Prevention Challenge. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, September 2009 Print Edition

Cite This Page:

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "'Intoxication' May Not Always Be Visible." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090522172459.htm>.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. (2009, May 24). 'Intoxication' May Not Always Be Visible. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090522172459.htm
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "'Intoxication' May Not Always Be Visible." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090522172459.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins