Thursday, November 4, 2010

Staying up to Date Part I: What is a Standard Drink now?

Recently I've realized that my entire primary school education has been proven wrong. Christopher Columbus did not discover America. Pluto is not a planet. You don't really use cursive. Brontosaurus is Brachiosaurus or Apatosaurus as they're calling it now and apparently the Triceratops was just the juvenile form of another dinosaur. Hmmm... Things change.

It's a good thing to remember especially as scientists whose job it is to stay up on the latest info. There used to be an old saying that is finally falling by the wayside. The saying that people eliminate one drink an hour. That hasn't been true for a long time for several reasons:

One: People gain different alcohol concentrations from the same drink based on gender and body type and Two: The alcohol concentration of drinks has risen.

In the "olden days" when the Brontosaurus roamed the earth and gas was 99 cents a gallon, regular beer was 4% alcohol. In the slightly more modern days when Apatosaurus roamed the Earth and gas was $4.50 a gallon, regular beer was 5% alcohol. That extra percentage makes a difference!

Now in the current days where some random dinosaurs may or may not roam the Earth and gas is around $2.80 a gallon at recent glance we need to re-evaluate what we are using for a standard beer. Budweiser advertises at 5% beer. Is that "standard?" I live in Vermont where micro brews reign supreme. When the typical micro brew is at least 6% and often more, should I be using a 5% beer as my standard drink? A quick look at Rock Art beers show 25 different brews where half of them are at least 8% alcohol and rise up to 10% alcohol. This means that a typical Rock Art is equal to nearly two Budweisers. That's using 12 ounce servings. If we start talking pints or the 20-24 ouncers that are starting to be served we're talking a substantial difference.

That's simply talking beer. You all know my opinion on Four Loko, the insanity of all alcohol beverages. Expert witnesses need to be aware of what's out there. We must stay on top of what is being sold and what is happening to the alcohol concentration of common beverages.

A few years ago, if  I were presented with a test of 0.160 and asked if it were possible for a person to reach that point on two drinks consumed a couple of hours ago as stated in a processing form, I would have answered in the negative. No way could a person do that. Now however with the presence of Four Loko and the trend of micro brews to reach 10% alcohol, the answer would not be so simple. Yeah, it's possible. Depending on what they were drinking, it may even be likely.

The problem we will be seeing is that the general public is not aware of the change either. I've already posted about the hospitalizations of people drinking Four Loko, but on the more common front defendants will easily be over an 0.08 and not understand how it happened. I've had to point out to my own husband, "That equals two!"

Keeping all of this in mind, what is a Vermont standard drink? Should we base the "standard" drink on region or should we get rid of it all together? I think that's best left up to a case by case basis, but expert witnesses should spend more time investigating what it is that is actually being consumed. If you have the name of the beer, it's very easy to find the alcohol concentration and well worth the extra couple of minutes for the greatly increased accuracy of your calculation.

1 comment:

  1. It is quite true I was schooled while imbibing a quality microbrew, on more than one occasion. I did not take into account the alcohol content of a particular beverage. I thank my lucky stars there is an expert guiding me..