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What does your BAC really mean?

Your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is an important unit of measurement. Law enforcement relies on it to determine if you are over the legal limit of 0.08 percent. But do you start feeling drunk at this BAC level?

In reality, how your BAC affects you differs greatly from person to person. It may surprise you to know that you can begin to feel drunk far before you hit 0.08 percent.

Low level intoxication

Healthline looks at a general guideline to different BAC levels and how drunk you may feel. First, it is important to note that many factors affect this. Your age, weight and gender are a few things that you have no control over. Other impacting factors can include underlying health conditions and medications you take. The amount and type of food you eat before drinking also influences how quickly alcohol saturates the blood.

Because of this, BAC levels only offer a general estimate on how drunk a person feels and how they may behave. Low level intoxication often kicks in anywhere from 0.01 to 0.05 percent BAC. At this state, you may feel completely normal despite being only 0.03 percent away from hitting the legal limit. Lightweights may begin feeling the effects early, though.

Euphoria and excitement stages

The stage of intoxication known as euphoria happens anywhere between 0.03 and 0.12 percent, well above the legal limit. As you can see, this is a huge range of BAC levels. This is also known as the “tipsy” stage. In other words, you are likely to hit 0.08 percent before you ever become drunk.

The stage known as “excitement” occurs when you become drunk. This ranges from 0.09 to 0.25 percent. By the time you leave tipsiness, you are well over the legal limit. Some with higher tolerance may still feel tipsy in the drunk stage. Others with lower tolerance might feel drunk in the tipsy stage. Because it differs so much, experts believe no one should drive after drinking, even if it was just one drink.