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SANTA FE, New Mexico – New Mexico has lead the nation every year since 1997 with the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths. 12,268 cases of DWI went through its courts in 2014, and more alcohol-related deaths take place there than in any other state at 51 per 100,000 people. From 2006-2010, excessive use of alcohol cut the average New Mexican’s life expectancy by 11% annually. Nationally, drinking leads to about 88,000 deaths a year and shortens the lives of those who die by about 30 years.


Last week New Mexico State Police in Thoreau arrested Elbert Smith, 37, of Crownpoint after blowing .40 on a breath test. Police say Mr. Smith had multiple open containers of alcohol inside his vehicle and displayed signs of impairment during sobriety tests. Smith was taken for medical clearance due to his excessive alcohol level, and was later booked in the Cibola County Detention Center on charges of DWI, Open Container of Alcohol, Vehicle to be Registered and No Insurance.


To find out how drunk someone has to be to surpass a blood alcohol level of .40, we looked into what happens to the body after a person has 1, 5 or 15 drinks.


After a drink is swallowed, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the blood (20% through the stomach and 80% through the small intestine), with effects felt within 5-10 minutes after drinking. It usually peaks in the blood after 30-90 minutes and is carried through all the organs of the body. According to informational website (an acronym for “Be Responsible About Drinking), here’s what happens to the body at various amounts of intoxication:


.02-.03 BAC: No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent. Mildly relaxed and maybe a little lightheaded.


.04-.06 BAC: Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution. Behavior may become exaggerated and emotions intensified (good emotions are better, bad emotions are worse).


.07-.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time and hearing. Euphoria. Judgement and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired. .08 is legally impaired and it is illegal to drive at this level. Someone will probably believe that they are functioning better than they are.


.10-.125 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria.


.13-.15 BAC: Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reduced and dysphoria (anxiety, restlessness) is beginning to appear. Judgement and perception are severely impaired.


.16-.19 BAC: Dysphoria predominates, nausea may appear. The drinker has the appearance of a “sloppy drunk”.


.20 BAC: Feeling dazed, confused or otherwise disoriented. May need help to stand or walk. If you injure yourself, you may not feel the pain. Some people experience nausea and vomiting at this level. The gag reflex is impaired and you can choke if you do vomit. Blackouts are likely at this level, so you may not remember what has happened.


.25 BAC: All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.


.30 BAC: STUPOR. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may pass out suddenly and be difficult to awaken.


.35 BAC: Coma is possible. This is the level of surgical anesthesia.


.40 BAC: Onset of coma, and possible death due to respiratory arrest.


In a country that is subjected to over $4 billion in alcohol advertising each year, the state saw 1,268 deaths in the past decades due to alcohol-related crashes alone, and most were between the ages of 21-34.

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