Non alcoholic and alcohol free gins are new but exploding on the market. All the big players and craft distillers are getting in on the action! Lots of first time “non” drinkers are asking “Can non alcoholic gin get you drunk?”.
On the face of it, you would think no. However how is drunk defined, how many alcoholic drinks does that take and how many non alcoholic? I will look at the definitions and crunch all the numbers to see what you need to drink and importantly, over how long.
In general you are unable to get drunk from non alcoholic (<0.5% ABV) gin and it is impossible to get drunk from alcohol free (0.0%) gin. The volume of non alcoholic gin required to raise your blood alcohol concentration to the legal intoxication level is not possible to consume or digest.
Can you get drunk on non alcoholic gin?
To get your head around on what exactly “drunk” might be, we need to find out what the legal definition of being intoxicated. Then look for what you may experience at blood alcohol concentrations lower than that.
The next logical step would be to look at how many alcoholic drinks or measures of gin it take to raise you blood alcohol concentration to that legal level, whatever it is.
Lastly, we need to equate this alcoholic or standard drink level into non alcoholic or alcohol free drink. You also need to remember you’d have a set timeframe to drink this level so that might not be possible either.
Spoiler alert! – you can’t get drunk on non alcoholic wine or alcohol free gin. Read on to see what it would really take to go down your throat to make you drunk…
How does your blood alcohol level rise.
When you drink alcohol, it goes down your throat, into your stomach and then into the intestines. The intestines are specially designed to absorb your food and drink.
You absorb the alcohol from your intestines, thats its main job, then it passes into your bloodstream via capillary beds. As you drink more alcohol, you absorb more via your intestines and the higher your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises. It’s a nice linear equation from that side.
On the other side of the equation is your liver. It is continually working to lower your BAC by breaking down the alcohol. It does this via an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase.
You have to consume more alcohol than your liver enzymes break down, over a set time frame, for your BAC to keep rising.
If you down a bottle of gin over 30 minutes it will naturally swamp your liver’s ability to process the alcohol. This results in your BAC soaring. If you drink the same bottle of gin over 10 hours, it gives your liver a chance to keep your BAC at a sensible level.
What are the effects of a rising BAC?
As stated above, when you drink more alcohol than your liver can break down, your BAC rises. The effects of a rising blood alcohol concentration has been studied.
Lots of informational websites include this data now for us to look at…
- 0.02% – The lowest measurable BAC where you can track brain issues. You may feel more relaxed and potentially make poorer decisions.
- 0.05%: Your behaviour can become over exaggerated. Speak louder and gesturing more are common features. You may also begin to lose control of small muscles like the ones that control your eye movements. This can lead to blurred vision.
- 0.08%: This is the current legal driving limit in the U.S and many areas around the world. It is also the legal definition of intoxicated in the US. Coordination suffers, so do your reaction times, speech, balance, and even hearing.
- 0.10%: At this BAC, reaction times and control will be reduced even further. Your speech will be slurred, you think slower, and your coordination becomes poor.
- 0.15%: This is nearly twice the driving limit. You will have much less control over your balance and voluntary muscles. Due to the coordination and muscle issues, falling and injuring yourself is a real possibility now.
- 0.20-0.29%: Common features at this BAC are confusion, feeling dazed, and disorientation. Sensations of pain will change, so if you fall and seriously hurt yourself, you might not care or notice. Nausea and vomiting are pretty likely with your the gag reflex starting to go. This can cause choking or aspirating on vomit. Blackouts begin at this BAC, so you may participate in events that you don’t remember.
- 0.30-0.39%: You are very drunk. You might not be alert and the risk of death becomes real. Lots of body systems become effected. Heart rate can rise, breathing can become poor and bladder control gives out, literally.
- 0.40% and over: This is as far as you can push it. Alcohol is affecting all your body functions. You will be unconscious and at high risk of dying. This is a lethal blood alcohol level.
What is “drunk” legally speaking
So we have seen, a BAC of 0.08% is what is needed to be legally intoxicated in the US. From there we can work out how much alcohol you would need to drink to get your BAC to this level.
Clearly this topic overlaps with the previous section on drink driving as the BAC end point is the same but it’s worth spending some additional time understanding what exacted would need to be drank, in what volume and over what timescale. My blog on drinking non alcoholic drinks and driving is here.
How many standard drinks to get drunk?
There are a huge number of variables that affect how quickly your BAC will rise. Weight, age, sex, overall health and how much of a tolerance you have built up to alcohol all play their part.
Some far eastern don’t have a fully functioning alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme which means they are more susceptible to alcohols effects.
Im a 220lb+ adult male with a decent alcohol tolerance (good old student days) and i know i can consume more than my wife who is half my weight!
2 standard measures of gin, consumed over an hour, would probably get your blood alcohol concentration to around the 0.4-0.6% level. This is an approximation.
If you are a small 100 lb female this could get your BAC to 0.08% so that’s the amount i will work from. You will feel some effects of alcohol intoxication even before the legal intoxication threshold so I will use this for the calculations.
Standard drinks vs non alcoholic drinks
Ok, let’s examine how may of the various types of low and non alcoholic gins it takes to equal 2 standard measures of gin.
|1.5 Fl 0z measure of gin by ABV||x2 US/Canadian Standard Drinks equivalent||Drinks needed for same alcohol volume|
|1.2% Low alcohol||0.064||62.5|
|0.5% Non alcoholic||0.0267||150|
|0.05% Alcohol free||0.00267||1500|
So you can see for a 0.5% gin you would need to consume x150 1.5 fl oz measures to have the equivalent of 2 standard gins.
This means you’d need to be drinking one every 24 seconds for an hour. Imagine drinking a gin with a mixer every 24 seconds!
The numbers are even more ludicrous for the alcohol free version. Its really not humanly possible to drink x10 the previous numbers.
It comes in at an alcohol free gin (with or without a mixer), every 2.4 seconds for an hour. Eh, good luck with that!!
Now remember this is all just to get your BAC to somewhere towards 0.08%. You would then need to keep drinking at least half that level every hour to maintain it at his level. I really don’t think it is possible.
In general you are unable to get drunk from non alcoholic (<0.5% ABV) gin and it is impossible to get drunk from alcohol free (0.0%) gin. The volume of non alcoholic wine required to raise your blood alcohol concentration to the legal intoxication level is not possible to consume or digest.
If you did manage to drink the 150-1500 gins to get near the legal intoxication level you would then need to keep drinking this amount every 1-2hrs to main it. Your liver will metabolise away 0.02% BAC an hour to reduce you back to normal.
For a full 11 reasons to try non alcoholic gin, follow this link to my article.