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November 8, 1958


Author Affiliations

East Lansing, Mich.; Milwaukee; Lansing, Mich.

JAMA. 1958;168(10):1359-1362. doi:10.1001/jama.1958.63000100007012

Popular beliefs regarding the effects of alcohol do not agree with the scientifically conducted observations. We have all heard of the mythical individual who "smells the cork" and becomes dead drunk, while another is cold sober after downing a "fifth." Actually the startling fact is that alcohol affects human beings in a surprisingly uniform manner when we measure, not how much the person drinks, but how much he accumulates in his body fluids. This uniformity is demonstrated by observing that the threshold for measurable effects of alcohol usually occurs at a blood alcohol level of about 0.02 to 0.03%, indicating the accumulation of 0.4 oz. (12 cc.) to 0.6 oz. (18 cc.) of pure alcohol in a 150-lb. (68-kg.) person. The fatal dose also is no respecter of persons. When a person accumulates enough alcohol to have a blood level of 0.6%, his most primitive nerve functions are interfered with