By Dan Rayner and Sam Highley
At the July club meeting we were lucky enough to get a presentation from Senior Constable Mick Richardson from ACT Policing on responsible alcohol consumption, particularly with relation to driving. The presentation was a fascinating mix of beer consumption and biochemistry, and gave us the opportunity to see just what effect the consumption of alcohol had on the blood-alcohol concentrations (BAC) of various volunteers.
Mick gave a great talk which covered alcohol consumption and why it's really not a very good idea to drink and drive, along with a demonstration of the 'instruments' they use to detect it.
The Drager Alcotest 7110. At 21:03 hrs it determined that there was
too much alcohol in the environment, and ceased functioning.
The instruments that Mick brought along included the small handheld boxes that they use roadside, which i'm sure most of us are familiar with, as well as the evidentiary machine that they use back at the station, which hopefully few of us are familiar with 😉
We called for beer-consumption volunteers a few days before the meeting, and had no shortage of responses. We aimed for a couple of different body shapes and sizes, as body fat content makes a pretty big difference to percentage and distribution of alcohol in the blood and around the body.
Senior Constable Mick Richardson and Steve (aka Northwest9)
Half of the volunteers were asked to have a full stomach of carbohydrates and fats (pork knuckles & mash anyone?) and the remainder had either a fairly normal meal or empty stomaches. These things can greatly affect the absorption of alcohol through the gut. Over the course of the meeting our volunteers (Stagger, Mozie, Duff, Richard, Nigel, Dicko and Dan) were fed prescribed volumes of standardised alcohol over measured times, which were charted on a whiteboard to demonstrate the peaks of BAC for each volunteer over time. To keep things as scientific as possible, each person drank the same middy of 5% alcohol beer from the Harmonie bar, and they were asked not to consume any other alcohol at the meeting.
The results were not that surprising. One of the 'well-rounded' volunteers, Chris Duffy (aka duffbowl), had consumed a big meal before the experiment, and his results were consistently low. Throughout the evening Chris registered very low readings and didn't register anything above 0.000 until his fourth and final reading at 9:10pm when he registered about 0.020, still well below the legal limit in the ACT of 0.050. At the other end of the spectrum, volunteer Nigel, who could best be described as 'average' (ie. 6 foot, 80'ish kgs), consumed a small meal before the experiment and by his fourth and final reading registered just over the limit at 0.052.
Volunteers offer up a sample of their breath for analysis, all in the name of science.
Other results of note included Craig (aka Stagger) who started the experiment on more-or-less an empty stomach, having consumed some crackers a couple of hours before the meeting. Craig is a solid bloke who enjoys a beer or two, but by his first reading he was already registering 0.030 and his second and third readings had him perilously close to the legal limit. His fourth and final reading had him well over the limit.
The message from the results was pretty clear. Larger people with a stomach full of food absorb alcohol into their bloodstream at a lower rate than smaller people with an empty stomach. If you want to minimise the affect that alcohol has on your system then you absolutely should not be drinking on an empty stomach. And don't even think about doing something as stupid as driving a car if you think your ability is impaired by alcohol.