What are the Different Stages of Alcohol Intoxication?


different stages of alochol intoxication

Many people drink alcohol for its pleasant effects. A glass of wine, cocktail, or beer can give people feelings of calm and relaxation. But drinking too much alcohol can lead to intoxication, and advanced stages of intoxication can lead to serious harm to your health–and even death.

It’s important to understand the stages of alcohol intoxication and be able to recognize the signs that you may need help for alcohol abuse or addiction. Realizing you have a problem with alcohol may be the first step toward getting the treatment and support you need to recover.

At Moving Mountains Recovery, our specialists provide high-quality, holistic treatment programs that allow people to live a healthy, sober lifestyle. Reach out to our admissions specialists to learn more about the alcoholism recovery programs we offer and how to get started.

Understanding the States of Alcohol Intoxication

When you drink alcohol, the effects can take some time to develop. A person’s blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, will rise as they consume more alcohol. Intoxication is defined as having a high blood alcohol content, along with physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms.[1]

Many factors can affect the intensity and duration of intoxication you experience, including the amount and type of alcohol you’ve consumed, gender, and physical size. Even something as simple as how much you’ve had to eat during the day can change the way you move through the stages of being drunk. Generally, though, people move through certain stages of intoxication as they consume alcohol.

Here are the stages of alcohol intoxication people experience.

1. Sobriety (Subclinical intoxication)

The CDC defines an alcoholic drink as:[2]

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as rum, whiskey, or vodka

Approximately one alcoholic drink can bring an average person to a BAC of 0.01-0.05. A person with a BAC in this range is not likely to show signs of intoxication, but some may have slowed reaction times or slightly impaired judgment.

2. Euphoria

Euphoria can occur when a person’s BAC is between 0.03-0.12. Women who consume 1-4 alcoholic drinks and men who consume 2-5 alcoholic drinks may meet the criteria for the second of these stages of alcohol intoxication. People may appear more animated, confident, and talkative in this stage but may also exhibit lowered inhibitions and loss of memory and coordination. Response times may be significantly impaired, and driving would be potentially hazardous.

3. Excitement

People with a BAC of 0.09-0.25 may experience significant instability in their mood and judgment. They are likely to slur when speaking and have other symptoms, including:

  • Memory and perception impairment
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision impairment, including loss of peripheral vision or blurriness

People will appear obviously drunk at this stage.

4. Confusion

In the fourth stage of being drunk, people may be disoriented, emotionally volatile, and dizzy.

Blacking out or passing out is common as a person’s BAC reaches 0.18-0.30.

5. Stupor

The fifth stage of alcohol intoxication can result in bodily harm and alcohol poisoning. As a person’s BAC climbs to 0.25-0.4, they may be unable to stand or walk. They may be incontinent, vomit, and have trouble maintaining consciousness. People at this level of intoxication should receive immediate medical care to avoid serious complications, including choking on their own vomit, depressed breathing, seizures, and heart arrhythmia.

6. Coma

Once a person has reached a BAC of 0.35-0.45, they are at risk of slipping into a coma. Respirations and circulation are dangerously depressed.[3] Body temperature and motor reflexes are decreased. Emergency medical intervention is necessary to avoid death.

7. Death

People with a BAC of 0.45 or higher are at serious risk of death due to respiratory depression and loss of other vital bodily functions. Death can occur at lower BAC levels, but the risk is significant at this level of intoxication.

Recognizing the characteristics of each of the stages of being drunk can help you seek immediate medical assistance when necessary and help you identify the need for substance abuse treatment.

Do I Need Alcohol Abuse Treatment?

Drinking heavily for a prolonged period can lead to tolerance–needing to consume more alcohol to get the same effects. People who develop tolerance are more likely to develop alcohol addiction and may be at increased risk of experiencing the late stages of alcohol intoxication.

Because reaching the later stages of being drunk can be life-threatening, it’s important to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse and addiction and seek treatment as early as possible.

Some of the common signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Needing to drink more to get the same effects
  • Experiencing legal or financial trouble related to your drinking
  • Neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Regularly drinking more than you planned to
  • Wanting to cut back or stop drinking but feeling like you can’t
  • Continuing to drink despite the negative outcomes

Alcohol abuse treatment can address the physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects of problematic drinking and regain control over your health and well-being. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get the help you need.

Find Help Now

If you or a loved one needs help to stop drinking, reach out to the Moving Mountains Recovery specialists to learn more about our holistic alcohol rehab programs in New Jersey. Our team will work with you to make the admission process as easy as possible so that you can focus on the most important thing–your recovery.


  1. Vaden Stanford Health Services: What is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://vaden.stanford.edu/super/learn/alcohol-drug-info/reduce-your-risk/what-blood-alcohol-concentration-bac
  2. Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Alcohol Use and Your Health, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  3. MedlinePlus: Blood Alcohol Level, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/blood-alcohol-level/
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