I’m not as think as you drunk I am…

As a nightclub security staffer, you see intoxicated patrons on a regular basis.

A very regular basis.

Like, an every night regular basis.

But very few people (nightclub professional or not) know the science behind Blood Alcohol Content. So let’s do a quick (and slightly scientific) review.

When you ingest alcohol about 20% is absorbed in the stomach and 80% through the small intestine. Blood vessels in both carry the alcohol into the body’s bloodstream. Enzymes in the liver then metabolize the alcohol and begin the process of breaking it down. Your liver can typically process only one ounce of liquor an hour – the equivalent of one drink. When an individual drinks more than this, their body simply cannot break the alcohol down fast enough and as a result alcohol builds up in their bloodstream. This leads to various degrees of inebriation and is why people who drink a large volume of alcohol in a short time span remain drunk for an extended period of time.

How fast alcohol is absorbed into the system is decided by several factors:

  • The concentration of alcohol in the beverage – The greater the concentration, the faster the absorption.
  • The type of drink – Carbonated beverages tend to speed up the absorption of alcohol.
  • Whether the stomach is full or empty – Food slows down alcohol absorption.

These last sentences are particularly important bouncers and doormen. When you see an individual stumbling, unable to stand, having difficulty focusing, or slurring their words, their BAC has very often not peaked yet. Which means they are about to be even more drunk! It is essential that these individuals are prevented from entering your establishment. By admitting said patron into your bar and giving them more alcohol, you are “overserving” which is a big legal no-no!

If these patrons are already in your bar, or have become this drunk, it is imperative that you watch them (to prevent them from hurting themselves or others), watch after them (by finding their friends and telling the bartender to cut them off), or provide them with the necessary assistance to leave the premises and get home in one piece. This is accomplished by calling a cab (don’t forget the name of the cab company and the driver’s business card!), placing them in the care of a sober friend, or calling Law Enforcement.

So what about BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) and its effects? Here is a breakdown (the titles are mine):

Slightly Tipsy (or Let’s Get This Party Started!)

0.02-0.06 BAC: No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent. Mildly relaxed and maybe a little lightheaded. Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution. Your behavior may become exaggerated and emotions intensified (Good emotions are better, bad emotions are worse)

Buzzed (or Yeah, shots!)

0.07-0.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgment and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired, .08 is legally impaired and it is illegal to drive at this level. You will probably believe that you are functioning better than you really are.

Drunk to Sloppy Drunk to “You’re My Best Friend” Drunk

0.10-0.19 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria. Dysphoria predominates (sadness, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness), nausea may appear.

Spring Break Drunk

0.20-0.25 BAC: Feeling dazed, confused or otherwise disoriented. May need help to stand or walk. If you injure yourself you may not feel the pain. Some people experience nausea and vomiting at this level. The gag reflex is impaired and you can choke if you do vomit. Blackouts are likely at this level so you may not remember what has happened. All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.

“Somebody Call 911” Drunk

0.30-.35 BAC: STUPOR. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may pass out suddenly and be difficult to awaken. Coma is possible. This is the level of surgical anesthesia.

“Yeah, Mrs. Johnson? Jimmy’s in the Hospital” Drunk

.40 BAC and up: Onset of coma, and possible death due to respiratory arrest.

While it is easy to joke about these levels of intoxication, it is important to realize that we are dealing with potentially life-threatening circumstances. Nightclub security staff should ALWAYS be prepared to call for help from trained medical professionals or Law Enforcement should they find themselves unable to deal with a particularly intoxicated patron. A severely inebriated individual is not only a danger to themselves, but may be a danger to others.

Make it a point to learn these levels of intoxication. A good exercise to practice is “Watching the Progression”. Pick a group of individuals as they enter the bar, watch them over the course of the next few hours, and try to decide on a course of action. Do you notice a behavior change? How does their behavior change? Do some individuals seem to fare better than others? Is it time to get them water? Cut them off? Call a cab?

Observation will get you very far in this business. Spotting an individual on their way to serious intoxication will not only make your job easier, it will prevent seriously liability. And if you have a good team of observers, very little will go by unnoticed. But I’ll save that for next time!