How to Find Your Alcohol Tolerance

By David Ferris

Alcohol comes in many forms, including beer, wine, liquors and liqueurs, all of which are popularly consumed at parties, sporting events, dinners and other social occasions. Alcohol, however, is a toxin, and excessive consumption can be dangerous or even deadly. Typical effects of alcohol include enhanced socialization, mild euphoria, a loss of coordination and motor skills, slurred speech, and impaired judgment. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than others; therefore, responsible drinking involves knowing one's limit. Because so many factors influence alcohol tolerance person to person, there's no precise, fool-proof, objective way to measure, but you can get a sense from personal experience and estimation. Remember that the legal drinking age in all 50 states is 21.

Determining your tolerance to alcohol takes time and experience.

Experiential Method

Step 1

Prepare a safe, supervised environment where you can test your alcohol tolerance by direct experimentation. Do so at home in the presence of friends or relatives.

Step 2

Slowly consume drinks over the course of the day or evening. Limit yourself to one or two drinks per hour so as not to imbibe too quickly.

Step 3

Take note of your state as you consume more drinks. Stop drinking when you feel you are reaching the "excitement" stage of alcohol influence, which includes such signs as "emotional instability," "loss of critical judgment," and "impaired balance." Because of alcohol's ability to impair judgment, it's advisable to rely on observers to point out these behaviors to you. Outward signs of intoxication include emotional excitability, slurred speech, and clumsiness or a lack of coordination.

Step 4

Deduce what is your limit based on this experience. Because tolerance varies so widely between individuals, it is difficult to precisely gauge your limit and learning your tolerance under the supervision of someone else, in a safe, non-threatening environment, can be effective. Moreover, different types of drinks can influence susceptibility to alcohol in different ways. Therefore, to better understand your tolerance, repeat the experiment (on different days, of course) for wine, beer and stronger drinks.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Calculation

Step 5

Repeat Steps 1-3 in Section 1 before moving to the next step.

Step 6

Calculate your blood alcohol content to vaguely estimate your state of intoxication. BAC calculation is not a precise method but it can objectively help you determine your general state of mind after drinking.

Step 7

Multiply the number of liquid ounces of alcohol consumed by 5.14. The figure 5.14 is a conversion factor that serves to convert liquid ounces to body weight.

Step 8

Multiply your weight in pounds by your alcohol distribution ratio (.66 for women and .73 for men.)

Step 9

Divide the number in Step 3 by the number in Step 2.

Step 10

Multiply .15 by the number of hours that have passed since you started drinking. The number .15 represents the average hourly rate of alcohol metabolism by the body. Subtract this number from the result in Step 4 to get your BAC.

Step 11

Compare your BAC to the BAC chart. A BAC up to .12 is generally safe (though may exceed the legal limit for driving.) A BAC of above .25 is considered a "stupor" state and one may enter into a coma or die if the level rises above .35. Remember, however, that these are general guidelines (provided by the Intoximaters, Inc. web site) and alcohol tolerance depends on the individual.