Blood Alcohol Screening Test: What It Is, How it Works, and Understanding the Results
08 November, 2023
A blood alcohol screening test is a method to determine the presence and level of alcohol in the body. This helps assess the state of intoxication or impairment due to heavy alcohol consumption. To perform the test, a healthcare professional typically collects a biological sample. These specimens can include urine, blood, saliva, or breath. The result reveals the Blood Alcohol Concentration level (BAC), which represents ethanol volume.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic disease that can have devastating effects on both physical and mental health. It is characterised by an inability to control or stop drinking despite negative consequences. This disorder can lead to a wide range of problems, including liver damage, relationship issues, and financial difficulties. Thus, it is vital to address the issue using alcohol testing methods. This article will present the assessment, how it works, and an understanding of the result.
What is a Blood Alcohol Screening Test
The blood alcohol screening test is a type of medical testing to measure the presence and concentration of alcohol. It helps determine if a person has heavy drinking and the effects of alcohol. Accordingly, the alcohol tests involve analysing the blood, breath, urine, or saliva samples for the presence of alcohol metabolites. Different types of tests can be used depending on the situation and available resources.
Furthermore, it is a common approach by law enforcement agencies, health professionals, and employers. This identifies if someone has been consuming alcoholic drinks and if BAC levels exceed the legal limit. It is important to note that it can detect alcohol even though the effects have worn off.
Additionally, various factors can influence the results of the blood alcohol testing. This includes the rate at which ethanol is metabolised in the body, the body weight, metabolism, and tolerance to liquor. The blood alcohol tests are highly beneficial as they allow early detection of drinking habits and excessive alcohol use. By identifying people who may need help, healthcare providers can offer appropriate support.
Purpose of the Test
- Determine alcohol consumption – the test can detect the presence of ethanol and provide an objective measure of alcohol consumption.
- Assess intoxication level – this information is crucial in determining the degree of intoxication and impairment.
- Ensure safety – the test promotes public safety by identifying people who may have an impairment. This can reduce the risk of accidents, injuries, and other negative outcomes.
- Intervention and treatment – by detecting BAC levels, healthcare providers can intervene and provide appropriate support.
- Legal proceedings – this can serve as vital in legal cases, particularly alcohol-related offences like Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
How Blood Alcohol Screening Test Works
A blood alcohol screening test works by measuring the amounts of alcohol in the person’s bloodstream. When someone consumes alcoholic beverages, the ethanol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestines. This circulates alcohol throughout the body. Nevertheless, each testing method has its ways of providing results.
To conduct the test, practitioners collect various specimens for analysis. The saliva testing requires the gathering of oral fluid from the mouth of the candidate. This is done by swabbing the gums or tongue. The urine tests involve the collection of urine samples. Conductors may advise the candidate to rinse first before getting a sample to avoid contamination.
The blood tests require to draw a blood sample from a person, usually in the arm. Additionally, breath tests require a candidate to blow in a breathalyser device. For saliva and urine testing, there are kits for more convenient use. Nevertheless, laboratory testing can provide the most accurate results. However, it is essential to ensure the use of certified devices and methods.
Types of Tests to Measure Alcohol Levels
The most common test is the breathalyser test. This measures the amount of alcohol in the breath. This test is often used by law enforcement officers to determine if a person is intoxicated while driving. Another type of test is a blood test. This directly measures the alcohol content in the blood.
Additionally, there are urine tests and saliva tests that can also be beneficial to measure alcohol levels. However, various factors may affect the results, such as how recently a person drank and the rate of metabolism. All in all, these tests are necessary to identify alcohol consumption and intoxication levels.
Understanding the Results of a Blood Alcohol Screening Test
Understanding the results of blood alcohol screening tests is important to assess the level of intoxication in a person correctly. If the BAC is zero (0.00%), it means no alcohol is present in the bloodstream. This indicates sobriety, and the individual is not under the influence. A low BAC (0.01% to 0.05%) indicates a minimal amount of ethanol in the system. At this level, people may experience mild relaxation.
For moderate alcohol consumption, the BAC is usually at 0.06% to 0.08%. The individual may experience more significant effects of alcohol. Moreover, the person may feel more relaxed, and their coordination, attention, and judgment may become impaired. Next, a high BAC (0.06% to 0.15%) indicates a substantial presence of alcohol. Slurred speech, poor coordination, and blurred vision may arise.
When the BAC reaches a very high level (0.16% and above), individuals are at severe risk of alcohol poisoning. Symptoms may include confusion, dizziness, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and even risk of coma. Immediate medical attention is vital in such cases. Lastly, it is vital to remember that people can have different reactions to alcohol and tolerance levels can vary.
Legal Limits in NZ
In New Zealand, the legal BAC limits for drivers vary depending on factors. For drivers aged 20 years and over with a standard license, the limit is 0.05%. This means that if the BAC level of the driver is equal to or exceeds 0.05%, the person is considered to be DUI of alcohol. This may lead to penalties such as fines, license suspension, or even imprisonment.
For drivers under the age of 20, the limit is zero. Any amount of alcohol in their system while operating a vehicle is illegal. These BAC limits are in place to ensure safety and to discourage drunk driving.
The blood alcohol screening test is a beneficial method of determining the BAC levels of a person. This information can be an effective way to identify people with impairment or alcohol-related issues. Individuals or conductors may choose from saliva, urine, blood, or breath testing. Each type of testing has its factors to suit specific needs. Furthermore, the testing methods require the collection of oral fluid, urine, blood, or breath.
Accordingly, the testing has numerous purposes. This includes the determination of consumption, intoxication assessment, ensuring safety, and intervention. In understanding the results, there are five levels. This specifies zero BAC, low BAC, moderate drinking, high BAC, and very high levels of consumption. Nevertheless, the general BAC limit in New Zealand is 0.05%, and for sensitive cases, 0.00%. With this article, people can recognise the different testing types and the legal BAC limit for safety.