Alcohol & BAC

Background Risks

Even before you take a drink, there are certain factors that can influence your risk for alcohol­-related problems. Which of the following risks apply to you?


If you identify with any of these factors, you could have a greater risk of developing alcohol­-related problems. But remember that while factors like these can play a role, the most important factors are the choices you make – how much alcohol you choose to drink and how often you drink.

Factors That Influence BAC

There are many factors that affect BAC, and not everyone’s BAC rises and falls at the same rate. That means that even if two people drink the same amount of alcohol, over the same length of time, their BACs can still be different.


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The less someone weighs, the less body water and mass they have to absorb the alcohol, which means they'll have a higher concentration of alcohol in their bloodstream and a higher BAC. 

Alcohol consumed while/after eating food is absorbed slower because it spends more time in the stomach.Eat something substantial, like proteins or starches, before and/or while drinking to slow the absorption.

Males have a higher water content in their body and also have more of the enzyme that processes alcohol, so they tend to be able to process higher amounts of alcohol. Also, oral contraceptives in women can cause alcohol to leave the body at a slower rate.

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The faster you drink, the faster your BAC rises. This is why activities such as drinking games and chugging put you at a higher risk. Time is the ONLY way to lower BAC. It can take 1-2 hours for your body to process one standard drink. Eating and throwing up, sleeping, and showering do NOT lower your BAC.

Highly caffeinated beverages can mask a person's perception of how intoxicated he or she really is. Now knowing how intoxicated you might be isn't just deceiving, it's dangerous. Carbonated mixers can speed up the rate of alcohol absorption. Sweet mixers can mask the taste of alcohol so you don't realize how much you're consuming.

There are a number of medications that are not meant to be used in conjunction with alcohol and can have serious side effects. But skip the drinks, not your meds! Be sure to read the labels and consult your doctor. These medications may include: allergy medications, pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminiphen), antidepressants, ADHD medications, antibiotics, and oral contraceptives.

While you may have some inherent risk factors due to your background, there are many other factors to consider. If you plan ahead and make the right choices, you can reduce your risk. Note that we say “reduce” – remember that any amount of alcohol consumption can involve some level of risk.

Use the Virtual Bar to see what your BAC may have been the last time you consumed alcohol. You can use this calculator to estimate your BAC and stay in the safe zone.

Once you get your BAC, take a look at the chart below and see what BAC zone you were in. Use these tips listed above to drink responsibly and stay safe the next time you consume alcohol. Remember, you don't have to drink.

If you are having any difficulties or concerns, consider contacting the professionals at Student Counseling Services. For immediate help or safety concerns, call the UChicago Police at 773.702.8181. Click here to find more important phone numbers.