Studies show that nearly 30 people are killed every day as a result of drunk driving in the United States. Around 82% of fatal car accidents are a result of drunk drivers. There are overwhelming statistics illustrating the dangers of driving drunk. Unfortunately, these statistics are not enough for many who choose to go out drinking without an alternative ride home. According to a paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, some drivers choose to drive drunk because they believe their tolerance to alcohol surpasses those involved in the statistics; which can be a difficult attitude to alter.
Alcohol’s Absorption Into the Body
Ethanol is the chemical present in drinking alcohol responsible for the intoxication. After consumption, alcohol passes through your bloodstream and eventually ethanol will make its way to your brain. The ethanol is small enough to pass in between the gap in the brain cells. Once this occurs, molecules can cause interference between the neurotransmitters. If the alcohol is consumed too quickly, the ethanol will flood the brain and the effect is enhanced.
The amount of alcohol drank, along with a few other factors, will determine the blood alcohol content (BAC). The faster the alcohol is absorbed, the greater the BAC. Glutathione-dependent formaldehyde dehydrogenase is an enzyme in the stomach responsible for breaking down alcohol. There are various biological mechanisms affecting tolerance, but the amount of glutathione-dependent formaldehyde dehydrogenase in your stomach will factor into BAC.
For heavy drinkers, their biological mechanisms have changed due to the familiar presence of alcohol in their system. It has also been suggested they may contain more of the stomach enzyme than other less experienced drinkers.
Not only are heavy drinkers biologically more tolerant, they also experience changes on the cellular level at the brain – known as functional tolerance. A person with high functional tolerance will exhibit low signs of intoxication while still maintaining a high BAC. There are other factors as well, such as Pavlovian conditioning and learned expectancies, that also play a role in perceived intoxication.
Driving Under the Influence
The many contributing factors to high BAC and perceived intoxication can make it more difficult for police to identify drivers under the influence when examining them at checkpoints. It can also make it more difficult for friends of drinkers determine if the individual is okay to drive. And it also provides the drinker with a “gray area” when assessing their own level of intoxication. It isn’t uncommon for an individual to feel as though they are mentally alert after drinking even though their reflexes and inhibitions are hindered. Since these obstacles make it difficult to accurately perceive a drinker’s level of sobriety, an estimated 1,500,000 people are arrested for drunk driving annually. If you have been charged with a DUI, contact an attorney immediately. A DUI doesn’t only affect your wallet, it can also result in license suspension, loss of employment, and more. Driving under the influence is dangerous, however, if you have already been charged a criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate to reduce charges.