Many millions of people enjoy drinking beer, i know i do. However, there comes a point when you might think you have had too much. Perhaps you have to drive, work, look after the kids etc and just don’t want to end up drunk. But the question then is, how many beers to get drunk? How many beers does it take on average?
How many beers to get drunk?
The CDC states it takes the average 160lb adult male, 4 standard beers to get drunk. A standard beer is 12fl oz and 5% ABV. The 4 beers have to be drank over 1-2 hours. If you are a female or lighter then it will take less beers, if you are a significantly heavier male, it may take 5+ beers to get drunk.
What does drunk actually mean, what is the definition?
We need to know how to scientifically judge what “drunk” is under the law. It needs to be a bit more precise than not walking too straight.
A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% is classed as legally intoxicated in the US.
We now need to see how many standard drinks would get your BAC to 0.08%.
How do you feel at different blood alcohol concentrations?
As you drink more alcohol than your liver can metabolise, your BAC rises. The effects of a rising blood alcohol concentration has been tracked by many studies.
Lots of informational websites include this data now.
- 0.02% – Probably the lowest measurable BAC where you can track any brain issues. You may feel more relaxed and potentially make poorer decisions.
- 0.05%: When you hit this BAC, your behaviour will may become over exaggerated. Speak louder and gesturing more are common. You may also begin to lose control of small muscles like the ones that control your eyes leading to blurry 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. You will likely lose some coordination, so your reaction times, speech, balance, and even hearing will deteriorate.
- 0.10%: As we reach this BAC, reaction times and control will be reduced further. Your speech will be slurred, you think slower, and your coordination becomes poor.
- 0.15%: Getting up to twice the legal driving limit now. You will have much less control over your balance and voluntary muscles. We have all seen someone who finds walking and talking difficult after a lot of alcohol. Falling and injuring yourself is a real possibility now.
What is a standard beer?
Beers come in lots of different shapes, sizes and strengths. There is no point in me saying “standard beer” and you imagining some 14% Imperial Stout when i mean a 5% Pilsner.
Luckily for everyone, the USDA have devised a list of “standard” alcoholic drinks. Each one contains the exact same amount of alcohol – 14g of alcohol (0.6 ounces).
Below is a list of the standard drinks, volumes and ABV that all give 14g of alcohol.
|Drink and volume||Alcohol content|
|12fl oz Beer||5%|
|5fl oz Wine||12%|
|1.5fl oz Spirit||40%|
So as you can see, a standard beer is a 12fl oz and 5% alcohol by volume beer. I will be using these figures for the calculations.
How many standard beers to get drunk?
How many alcoholic beers does the average adult need to drink to get to a BAC of 0.08% and drunk under the law?
The CDC tells us that the average 160lb adult male will need to drink 4 standard drinks, in the case beers, to get to a BAC of 0.08%.
The answer is therefore, it would take 4 standard beers to get drunk. These need to be drank over 1-2 hours however, as your liver will start breaking down the alcohol in your blood as soon as it encounters it.
How does weight affect the number of beers to get drunk?
How physically big you are has a huge impact on the amount of alcohol it takes to get you drunk. If you have ever been out drinking with friends, you might notice the larger ones seem they they have hollow legs compared to the smaller ones.
Alcohol is distributed throughout the body so if you have more actual body, less of the alcohol will remain in your bloodstream, lowering your blood alcohol concentration.
Below is a table of how body size might affect the “4 beers to get drunk” rule.
|Number of Beers||140lbs||160lbs||180lbs||200lbs||220lbs|
How does sex affect the number of beers to get drunk?
Biological females get intoxicated quicker and with lower amounts of alcohol. This is due to a few reasons.
A female will on average be smaller than a male, they have circa 40% less alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme that breaks down alcohol) than an equivalent male and they have a higher percentage of fat to lean mass so more of the alcohol is in their bloodstream.
Below is another table of how many beers it would take a female of various sizes to get drunk. Remember the magic number to be classified as drink is 0.08% BAC
|Number of Beers||140lbs||160lbs||180lbs||200lbs||220lbs|
What other factors affects how quickly you get drunk?
Different ethnicities have variants of some key genetic components that are needed to break down alcohol and therefore their blood alcohol concentration spikes quicker.
Notable examples would be people of Asian or Native American descent can have reduced levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol. This means they would get drunk quicker and on less beer.
Nearly everyone knows if you drink on an empty stomach you will get drunk quicker. The local term we use here is “soakage”, as in you need some before a big session on the beer.
A large meal, close to when you are going to start drink, will lower the absolute peak of your blood alcohol concentration. The food delays the alcohol leaving your stomach and into the bloodstream.
The more you drink the more tolerance you can build up to the affects of alcohol.
If you feel especially tired or have had a lack of sleep, you will feel the intoxicating effects of alcohol sooner than if you were well rested.
If you mix alcohol with sedating prescription medications or illegal drugs then these can work to enhance the sedative affects of alcohol and make you feel drunk much quicker.
Believe it or not, having very strong motions like anger, fear or being lonely can bring on the affects of alcohol quicker. If you are out at a bar with the expectation of being drunk, you may well feel drunk sooner as well from the placebo effect.
Some birth control pills or drinking at the premenstrual stage of a woman’s cycle can lead to higher blood alcohol concentrations.
How many non alcoholic and alcohol free beers to get drunk?
If it takes 4 standard beers to get drunk, it would take 40 non alcoholic beers and 400 alcohol free beers to get drunk.