Imagine this scenario: It’s Friday evening, and it has been a very long and stressful week. You are definitely ready to relax, so when your friends invite you to Happy Hour in Old Town to celebrate, you don’t hesitate in replying, “Yes!”

You take a sip of your dirty martini, and your stress immediately starts to melt away. Soon you’re engaged in conversation and having a good time. Talk of food arises, and the group moves to the next spot to order pizza and wine. After that, somebody suggests going to the hot bar next door for a pint. Soon you have a slight buzz, and realize that you’ve had enough.

So you think “what is my BAC?” You think you might be okay, but you aren’t really sure. Hold on…there are BAC calculator apps on your smartphone! There are apps for practically everything today, so this should be easy. So you pull one up, like Show me my Buzz¹ or iDrink Smarter² and try to determine what your BAC level is.

Most of these applications will give you a BAC estimation based on the amount of drinks that you’ve had. Some also take your height, weight, and sex into consideration. The problem is that it’s hard to determine an accurate BAC when other factors are present. Many of these sites are incomplete or don’t take things into consideration, like: Food consumption, medication, health and psychological conditions.³ While it’s always a good thing to keep track of how much alcohol you are consuming throughout the night, keep in mind that the calculations for BAC levels are not that simple. It can take between a half-hour to two hours for your body to fully absorb and then eliminate the drink, depending on whether or not you’ve eaten.⁵ A study by Kurt Dubowski, PhD of the University of Oklahoma found that blood alcohol time curves can fluctuate, and “alcohol absorption isn’t always complete in 60-90 minutes, as is often claimed.”

Further, apps that calculate how many “drinks” you’ve had are only as accurate as your memory of them will be. It’s also difficult to approximate what “one drink” is because a different sized glass or a heavy-handed bartender can make one drink actually become 3 or 4. Typically, 1.5 oz of hard liquor constitutes one drink, and can be poured in 6 seconds.⁴ But not all bartenders measure this exactly the same way.

One way to monitor your consumption is to drink easily measured drinks over a set time, like a 12-oz light beer(considered a “standard drink” in the study of alcohol consumption and BAC calculation) every hour or so. One standard drink an hour is typically what the average male can process, on a general scale. This does differ from person to person, and even between men and women. Again, there are other incalculable factors can potentially change your BAC. Remember, depending on the above mentioned factors, even the smallest amount of alcohol can impair your senses and judgment. If you feel in the slightest bit uncomfortable to drive, then you would be better off using your iPhone app to call a cab. Apps are great for many things, but estimating your ability to drive a car is not one of them!

(1) http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/alcohol/new-smartphone-app-estimates-blood-alcohol-concentration

(2) http://appadvice.com/appguides/show/best-blood-alcohol-content-gauging-apps-for-the-iPhone

(3) http://www.modot.org/safety/ImpairedDriving.htm

(4) http://www.examiner.com/bartender-in-national/bartending-101-free-pouring-vs-the-jigger

(5) http://www.forcon.ca/learning/alcohol.html

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