December 31, 2013
Driving under the influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol kills nearly 10,000 people in the United States annually. Long-term heavy alcohol use can cause serious health conditions.
Each year, in Illinois about 300 deaths are due to alcohol-related accidents. Hillary LaMontagne, licensed clinical professional counselor and a substance abuse counselor at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the blood alcohol level at which drivers are considered intoxicated.
“The legal limit is .08 or less in Illinois for drivers. The other question, How many drinks does it take to reach this? That depends on a variety of factors. It really depends on the individual and it includes such factors as age, gender, how fast you are consuming the drink, your body type, fat and muscle content. Women tend to get intoxicated more quickly than men because women have more fat than muscle in their bodies.”
There are serious legal and medical consequences to consuming alcohol and for driving under the influence. The most serious legal charges can carry a substantial fine. If the driver hurts another person, they can be sentenced to jail or even lose their license. From a medical perspective, long-term heavy alcohol use can cause health conditions such as cancer, brain damage and liver disease. LaMontagne offers suggestions about drinking and driving.
"If you are drinking, be cautious – designate a driver. That’s the safest thing, or take a cab. Make sure you have had a meal to eat before you consume alcohol. Absolutely don’t drink with medications that say on the warning label don’t mix with alcohol.”
LaMontagne urges people to celebrate responsibly. If someone has a drinking problem, they should see their primary care physician or mental health counselor.