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Virginia ABC > Sip Responsibly > Learn Alcohol Basics

Learn Alcohol Basics

Sip Responsibly Standard Drink

Understanding the risks and consequences of drinking can help individuals make informed decisions about alcohol consumption and reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes such as injury, accidents and alcohol-related health problems. It is important for individuals to continue learning about alcohol safety throughout their lives to maintain the skills and knowledge needed to make safe and responsible decisions about alcohol.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol that is present in the bloodstream. Biological sex is one of the many factors that impacts BAC levels. Alcohol affects males and females differently. Remember, Virginia sets the legal limit for driving while intoxicated at a BAC of .08% for those 21 years of age and older. Factors that may affect blood alcohol level include strength and type of drink, rate of consumption, body size, food and other drug use.
BAC Chart Females
BAC Chart Males

Alcohol By Volume

Alcohol by Volume (ABV) is the volume of pure alcohol in a given alcoholic beverage. The ABV percentage of bottled or canned beer, wine and other types of alcoholic beverages can be located on the bottle or can. The ABV of beer and wine at establishments can often be located on the menu.

What Is Alcohol Poisoning? 

Alcohol poisoning happens when a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time, resulting in a high BAC. A large volume of alcohol in the bloodstream causes major functioning organs like the brain to consequently shut down. An average of six people die of alcohol poisoning each day in the U.S.

Standard Drink Size

Standard size drinks contain approximately the same amount of alcohol and help estimate BAC. They are defined as 12 ounces of beer at 5% ABV, 5 ounces of wine at 12% ABV and 1.5 ounces of liquor at 40% ABV or 80 proof. Remember, some wines and beers contain a higher percentage of alcohol than others and not all mixed beverages are made with the same amount of liquor.

How To Calculate a Standard Drink

To calculate the number of standard drinks being consumed, multiply the number of ounces in the drink by the ABV percentage decimal. Then, multiply that number by two to find the approximate number of standard drink sizes the beverage contains. Example: You order a 16-ounce beer that has a 9% ABV. How many standard drinks are you consuming?

Want to Check Your Drinking?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a handy online tool to measure alcohol consumption and give advice about drinking less. Use the CDC tool to help track your drinking.

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