For legal purposes, it depends on the state, but people are considered intoxicated if their level is above .08 or 80. So, if they were pulled over and they blew a .09, they would be arrested DUI (also depending on field sobriety).
Our docs wouldn't release someone until their level was below 80 (approx).
One beer, one glass of wine, one shot of liquor will raise the BAL 15-20 points. And a person will metabolize alcohol approx 15-20 points per hr. So if they had 4 beers, that would equal 80. If they had 10 beers, that would equal about 200.
You can say the number of beers equals the number of hrs to metabolize. 10 beers=10 hrs. But we cut off at 80. So, if someone had 10 beers, the number would be 200, which means they can go home in 6 hrs (down to 80) if no one can drive them home.
For the public, the term intoxication and sober, describes how drunk they feel. For the legal system, those terms describe a lab value, regardless of how drunk they feel. Functioning alcoholics don't feel drunk when their BAL is 150, but they are considered intoxicated by the state.
No one really uses the term sober unless there is no etoh in their system. Be careful when you use the term sober. Family members always ask if the pt was sober. All you say is the etoh level and what level the state considers people intoxicated. If the pt goes to court and the family states that you said the pt was sober, there better not be any alcohol in the level.
You'd be surprised how low an alcohol level can be when a trained nurse smells it. For the ER nurses that have been around a while, we can smell a drop of alcohol a mile away. As time goes on, you'll be able to pick up on it with just one or two beers.
fyi...every pt has always had only two beers. It might have been an entire keg, but it's always just two.