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AWARE|University Counseling Center

Terms and Definitions

Although individuals may have heard certain alcohol related terms, they do not know the exact definition. The purpose of this page is to educate individuals about these terms. If you can think of other definitions we should include, e-mail and ask.

Proof refers to the percentage of ethyl alcohol by volume in any particular type of alcoholic beverage. Proof corresponds to twice the percentage rate. For example, a bottle of whiskey may be 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) refers to the concentration of pure ethyl alcohol in an individuals' blood. It is usually described as a percentage such as in the legal driving limit for the state of Wyoming...0.08%. However, if the individual is under the age of 21, they can be issued a DUI at a .02 or above.


Tolerance, as related to alcohol is primarily psychological, in other words, your brain has learned to make some adjustments while you are drinking. Basically, you have become used to feeling drunk and do not perceive the level of impairment. However, things like reaction time, balance, coordination, visual acuity, and reasoning and judgment are immutably impaired based exclusively on BAC. You will be just as drunk if it is your first time drinking or your 5000th time drinking. Only your perception changes, not your level of impairment or intoxication.

"Binge Drinking"
"Binge drinking" is a research term that has received a lot of press in recent years in relation to college student's misuse of alcohol. Technically, a "binge drinking" episode is defined as five or more drinks in a sitting for a man, four or more drinks in a sitting for a woman.

A "blackout" occurs when an individual is so impaired from alcohol that they experience memory impairment similar to amnesia. The individual may be walking around and doing things, but these experiences are not transferred to long term memory. The risk of blackout typically begins when the BAC/BAL is around .15.

A "brownout" is similar to a blackout, but long term memory is less impaired. The individual is able to recall aspects of the experience, but only when they receive reminders about a specific event.

"Pass Out"
"Passing out" occurs when the individual ingests so much alcohol that they lose consciousness, indicating a dangerous level of intoxication.

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