So You Had a Plan…To Go Drink-for-Drink With a Buddy?

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
So you're 5 feet, 8 inches and 160 pounds and you've decided to go drink-for-drink with your 240-pound, 6-foot, 4-inch buddy? That's a really bad idea, according to those who run the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) Program here.

"Some people may take part in drinking contests because it may appear to be a fun time either from the point of spectator or the competitors; however, I'm sure most people would think otherwise if they simply knew the truth about how alcohol truly affects the body," said Senior Airman Aric Moren, an ADAPT instructor with the 319th Medical Operations Squadron Behavioral Health Flight.

According to Moren, in order better understand the negative physiological effects of alcohol; a person should first know how to define a drink.

According to both the U.S. Air Force Medical Service and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one-half ounce of pure ethyl alcohol equals to one standard drink. One can filled with 12 fluid ounces of regular beer is a standard drink. So is one 1.5 fluid ounce shot of hard liquor, such as whiskey or vodka.

"The bottom line is regardless of what type or what brand of alcohol a person may consume, it is the amount of ethyl alcohol in the drink that makes it a standard drink," said Moren. "So while someone drinking a forty-ounce beer may think he's just having one drink because the alcohol is in one container, they're actually consuming the equivalent of three standard drinks."

It's also important thing to learn is how body mass - height and weight- impacts much a drinker will be affected by alcohol, and how that plays a part in a drinker's Blood Alcohol Concentration, said Moren.

Moren used the example of the 5-foot-8-inch Airman going drink for drink with his taller, heavier buddy, assuming they were both males who consumed four regular beers each.

It would be safe to expect that the smaller male would have a higher blood alcohol concentration than the larger male because he has a smaller body mass. (See Men: B.A.C. Estimation Chart)

According to a B.A.C. estimation chart for men provided by the USAF Medical Service's Alcohol Education Module, the B.A.C. for the 160-pound male would be .09 while his bigger buddy would register .06. The male with the larger body mass in this case would be under the legal blood-alcohol limit in the state of North Dakota, which is .08, but the smaller airman would be over that legal limit.

Moren was quick to dismiss any idea or notion that might make readers think that it was OK for the 240-pound male to operate a vehicle.

"Although the larger male in this case may be under the legal limit, it would be very foolish for anyone to think it would be safe for him to drive," said Moren. "Thanks to extensive medical research we know for a fact that there's essentially no real difference between a male weighing 100 pounds or 240 pounds when it comes to driving because in both cases it takes just one alcohol drink to impair driving skills."

Moren said it's even a bigger problem when you compare males to females.

"Did you know that a man and woman, both the same height and weight, can drink the same amount of alcohol, yet the woman will have a thirty percent higher blood alcohol concentration?"

He explained that there are two main reasons for this.

First, women generally have less water in their body to dilute the alcohol, so they are affected more than men.

Second, women have less gastric alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) isozymes, which is the specific enzyme that the body uses to metabolize or breakdown alcohol in the body.

"For this very reason, women need to be more cautious than males when it comes to the amount of drinking they do," said Moren.

Mores said the playing field is level, however, when it comes to processing alcohol out of their systems.

It takes about 90 minutes to two hours to metabolize each standard drink.

"Just to be on the safe side, those of us in the health profession tell people to just think of as it taking two hours for your body to get rid of each standard drink. Two for one is just much easier to remember," said Moren.

"The military encourages people to have a good plan that will allow you to get home safe and sound when someone decides to drink. Some people even come up with a backup plan as well," said Moren. "But it's like one NCO told me one day, 'it doesn't matter if you have one or a thousand plans; if your plan is to go drink-for-drink with someone or to get wasted, then the truth of the matter is you really don't have a good plan because letting yourself think it's OK to get drunk is just setting yourself up to fail already.'"

Editor's note: For more information about alcohol or substance abuse, call your local behavioral health flight or ADAPT office. The number to the behavioral health flight at Grand Forks AFB is 701-747-4460.