You got drunk last night – it doesn’t happen often but it was a celebration and you got carried away. You’d given your keys to a friend who took you home and tucked you into bed. When you wake up and deal with the headache and nausea, you still need to drive to work. You were careful to not to drive last night, but what about today? Are you still impaired? After all, shouldn’t your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) be zero by now?
A new study shows that it’s quite possible for you to be an impaired driver when you get behind the wheel to go to work this morning.
A group of researchers examined the blood of drivers suspected of being drunk or impaired. Drivers were also given clinical tests to determine if they were competent to drive. The 146 drivers who tested negative for any current signs of psychoactive drugs (including alcohol) were further examined. Some of these drivers had failed the driving competence test and some had passed it.
The blood test results of these 146 drivers were then evaluated to determine if they had any of the breakdown products of alcohol left in their bodies – when the body breaks down alcohol, it creates new chemicals: ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulphate. The alcohol is actually gone, but these chemicals remain to show signs of recent drinking.
In 16 cases, those who failed the competence test showed ethyl glucuronide and/or ethyl sulphate in their blood tests. In those who passed the competence test, only three people showed any signs of these chemicals, and their levels were lower than in the 16 failed-test cases.
The researchers concluded that even when alcohol is effectively gone, a hungover driver may constitute a public safety hazard if he gets behind the wheel.
If you really want to play it safe for your own safety and the safety of others, drink in moderation if at all. As a general rule, if you wake up hungover, you’ve drunk too much.