Most people know that a few drinks make them feel good. So they assume that a lot of drinks will make them feel even better. But that’s not true. Although a few drinks will make them feel better, more will make them feel worse. That is the biphasic effect or the biphasic curve. And the biphasic curve describes it visually. (Biphasic refers to its two phases or parts.)
The Biphasic Curve
Here’s what happens. People tend to feel better as their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises to about 0.05. It’s 0.055 to be exact. That is the first phase or part of the biphasic curve.
If people drink more and their BAC rises above .055, the negative effects of drinking increase. For instance, hangovers become worse. Problems associated with drinking too much increase. That’s the second phase. So it’s clearly smart to stop during the first phase and not progress into the second phase.
On the whole, how much does it take to reach a BAC of about .05? This charts provide guidelines. Yet gender, speed of drinking, food eaten, and some meds effect BAC.
Drinks Per Hour
|Body Weight in Pounds|
|% of Alcohol in Bloodstream|
|5||.19||.16||.13||.12||.11||.09||.09||.08||Legally Intoxicated in all States|
|Number of Drinks Per Hour||Body Weight in Pounds|
|% of Alcohol in Bloodstream|
|4||.18||.15||.13||.11||.10||.09||.08||.08||Legally Intoxicated in all States|
How to Maintain a Moderate BAC
Here are some hints for maintaining a moderate BAC
- The first thing to know is this. The typical can of beer, glass of wine, or liquor drink has the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s 0.60 ounce. Thus, when it comes to alcohol, a drink is a drink is a drink. And they’e all the same to a breath tester. For more, visit Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence.
- Know your limit. Most people find that they can have one drink per hour without any ill effects. That is a good rule of thumb. Also, experiment with The Drink Wheel.
- Eat food while you drink. Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol into your body.
- Sip and savor your drinks.
- Don’t do “chugging” contests or other drinking games.
- Accept a drink only when you really want one. If someone tries to force a drink on you, ask for a non-alcohol beverage instead. If that doesn’t work, “lose” your drink by setting it down somewhere and leaving it.
- Alternate beverages. Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones. This helps keep your BAC level down. So does spacing out your alcoholic drinks.
- Keep active. Don’t just sit around and drink. If you stay active you tend to drink less. Also, you tend to be more aware of any effects alcohol may be having on you.
- Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Some drinks, such as punches, can be deceiving. That’s because the alcoholic content isn’t clear. Therefore, it is difficult to space them properly.
- Use alcohol carefully with meds. Read the labels carefully.
Needless to say, drinking too much alcohol is never a good idea.
Popular Resources on Drinking
Dasgupta, A. The Science of Drinking. How Alcohol Affects Your Body and Mind. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Michael, E. How to Control Your Drinking and Learn to Drink in Moderation. Michael.
Poikolainen, K. Perfect Drinking and Its Enemies. Minneapolis: Green.
Turner, C. How You can Decide When Enough is Enough. NY: Morgan.
- Graphics for biphasic curve are from the Alcohol & drug Counseling, Assessment, and Prevention Service at Washington State U. It adapted them from Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) by Linda Dimeff et al. It also adapted them from the work of Dr. Pat Fabiano at Western Washington U.
- Tables adapted from the Nat Clearinghouse for Alco and Drug Info and the Iowa Alcoholic Bev Div.
- At this point you know about the biphasic curve. Few people have even heard of it. So congrats!
- Perhaps you know of an item that should be on this page. If so, please contact hansondj [@] potsdam [.] edu/. In fact, many readers have helped improve this site. So thank you for any help.