How Drunk Is Drunk? Part 2: The Dangers Of A 0.20 BAC And Higher

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In our previous blog, we looked at the varying signs and symptoms of an elevating blood alcohol content, BAC, from 0.02 to 0,19 in various ranges. At each level of intoxication, there is a difference in behavior, cognitive function, and health risk. Once an individual approaches or passes 0.20, they are at high risk for serious injury, choking, coma, or death. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and risks of BAC levels 0.20 and higher is critical for being able to save a life.


This is the “blackout drunk” stage. When an individual reaches this stage of intoxication, they are completely disconnected from themselves in mind and body. Disorientation sets in along with the inability to move properly. Nausea often turns into vomiting at this stage. Dangerously, this is a stage of intoxication where an individual is at risk for choking on their own vomit.


Between blackout drunk and passed out drunk is this phase of intoxication. At this stage, the ability to normally function in mind or body is completely gone. In and out of consciousness, the risk of choking on vomit or becoming seriously physically injured is heightened.


This stage can be called the “drunken stupor”. In addition to all mental and motor function being lost, an individual this drunk has also lost recollection of where they are, who they are, and what they are doing. A big risk for this stage of intoxication is passing out. Passing out can happen at different stages of intoxication. For individuals who have reached this level of BAC, it can be difficult to wake them back up. If they vomit in their sleep or cannot be woken up, there can be severe consequences. Consequences worsen as the BAC goes up from here.


If someone surpasses the drunken stupor stage to being completely incoherent, they are at risk for falling into a coma. They are essentially anesthetized.

0.40 or above:

Alcohol is a depressant substance which means it causes the body, the brain, and the organs, to slow down in the way they function. When BAC levels reach this alarmingly high level, the body is at risk for shutting down completely. Coma is still a risk. A greater risk at this stage is respiratory depression or respiratory arrest. An individual might be so intoxicated they stop breathing entirely, cutting off critical oxygen flow to the brain and the heart. Death is possible.

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