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Alcohol Tolerance: What it Means

It’s common knowledge that alcohol interrupts many of the body’s functions, such as balance, coordination and depth perception. It’s also know that alcohol affects people’s behavior. For example, a drunk person may act silly or angry; they may have no inner monologue; and, they may lose their inhibitions, therefore engaging in risky behavior.

But alcohol does more than affect bodily functions and human behavior. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “after chronic alcohol consumption, the drinker often develops tolerance to at least some of alcohol’s effects.” What does tolerance mean exactly? Does it mean the drinker’s BAC does not rise as much as an occasional drinker’s?

“Tolerance means that after continued drinking, consumption of a constant amount of alcohol produces a lesser effect or increasing amounts of alcohol are necessary to produce the same effect,” says the NIAAA. Tolerance to alcohol does not indicate a good thing. According to the NIAAA, tolerance to alcohol’s influences can lead to the following negative consequences:

  • It encourages alcohol consumption
  • Contributes to alcohol dependence
  • Contributes to organ damage
  • Affects tasks, such as driving
  • May increase the risk of alcoholism
  • Contributes to the ineffectiveness of other medications
  • Contributes to the toxicity of other drugs and medications

Understanding Functional Tolerance

A human being develops tolerance to alcohol when his or her brain adapts to compensate for the disruption alcohol has on their behavior and bodily functioning. This adaption is commonly referred to as “functional tolerance.” A chronic heavy drinker will display functional tolerance when they have a very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), but they will not show any outward signs of intoxication when others would be incapacitated or the dose would be fatal.

Some words of caution: While people can develop functional tolerance, it does not mean their BAC is lower. Functional tolerance does not have any effect on BAC. In other words, someone can drink a lot and not show any signs of impairment because they have a high tolerance for alcohol; however, BAC will not be reduced.

To learn more about alcohol and tolerance, click here. For DUI defense representation in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. today!