Don't press your luck this St. Patrick's Day

Drink responsibly

Author: Liz Kovac

Don’t press your luck this St. Patrick’s Day. Know your alcohol tolerance, secure a designated driver, and help those you care about make good choices. Continue reading for more information about the short-term and long-term effects alcohol has on the body.

How alcohol affects the body

Blood alcohol content (BAC) refers to the percent of alcohol in a person’s blood stream. “There are several factors that contribute to the impact alcohol can have on the body,” said Jamie Oneil, manager of the Trauma Program at McLaren Lapeer Region. These factors include:

  • Your size and weight
  • Your overall health
  • If you have food in your stomach
  • If you’re combining alcohol with other drugs / medications
  • The percentage of alcohol in your drinks
  • The rate and amount of alcohol you consume
  • Your personal alcohol tolerance level

While the following drinks typically have a standard amount of alcohol in them, they can affect individuals differently.

One 12 oz. regular beer (4.5-6% alcohol)

One 5 oz. glass of wine (12% alcohol)

One 1.5 oz. shot of hard liquor (40% alcohol)

Signs of intoxication

Between 0.3 and 0.12 BAC is considered the ‘euphoria’ stage of intoxication. Individuals often feel ‘buzzed’ at the lower end of this scale and can begin to display signs of intoxication near the higher end.

Signs of intoxication include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vision problems
  • Dehydration
  • Flushing of cheeks
  • Slowed heartrate

It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, even if an individual shows few symptoms of intoxication. According to Michigan State Police, impaired driving represented 42.5% of Michigan traffic fatalities in 2019.

“If you’ve been drinking, keep yourself and others safe by waiting for the buzz to wear off or have someone sober drive you,” said Oneil.

Alcohol poisoning

Binge drinking can be a precursor to alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking is when you consume large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Typically for men, this would involve drinking five drinks in two hours. For women, it would involve drinking four drinks in two hours.

Alcohol poisoning symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Extreme slowed breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Blue tinged or pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Passing out
  • A BAC over 0.31% is life-threatening

Alcohol poisoning is an emergency. If you suspect someone of having alcohol poisoning, call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room immediately.

“Don’t assume the person will sleep off alcohol poisoning,” said Oneil. “Call 911 and stay with the individual until EMS arrives. Do what you can to keep them upright and awake.”

Complications of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Choking
  • Stopped breathing
  • Severe dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Hypothermia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Brain damage
  • Death

In relation, if you experience a severe hangover that involves intense vomiting, head to the emergency room or check-in to the ER from home by visiting

Long-term effects of alcohol

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), moderate alcohol intake for healthy adults consists of 1 drink or less a day for women and two drinks or less a day for men.

“Alcohol should be consumed responsibly,” said Oneil. “Typically, during your annual physical with your primary care provider, they will ask you about your alcohol intake. When your alcohol consumption exceeds the CDC parameters over the span of months or years, your health is likely to suffer.”

Long term effects of alcohol include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety and mood swings
  • Impaired senses and motor skills
  • Cancer
  • Reproductive problems
  • Liver problems
  • Stomach ulcers

If you think you have an alcohol problem, call the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) at 1(800)662-2255 for support.

For more information about the services available at McLaren Lapeer Region, visit