How drunk was Mel Gibson?

Answers to your questions about the news.
July 31 2006 6:46 PM

How Drunk Was Mel Gibson?

At least a couple of sheets to the wind.

Download the MP3 audio version of this story here, or sign up for The Explainer's free daily podcast on iTunes.

Mel Gibson was arrested on suspicion of DUI on Friday after a Breathalyzer test administered by police officers measured his blood-alcohol content at 0.12. (The legal limit in all 50 states is 0.08.) According to the police report, Gibson made anti-Semitic remarks while in custody—he has since apologized for his "belligerent behavior." How drunk was Mel Gibson?

Pretty drunk. Assuming that Gibson weighs approximately 180 pounds, he would need to consume between five and six drinks in an hour to attain a blood-alcohol content of 0.12 percent. One drink is roughly equivalent to 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. * (Click here for a chart that shows the effects of varying amounts of alcohol on men and women of different body weights.)


It's not that simple to interpret a blood-alcohol reading, though. To figure out exactly how many drinks Gibson had, you'd need a lot more data, including how long before taking the Breathalyzer test he'd started drinking, how fast he was drinking, and whether he had eaten any food. Moderate drinkers can metabolize about a drink an hour. Heavier drinkers—Gibson claims to be battling alcoholism—process alcohol even faster. That means if a heavy drinker and an infrequent drinker have the same blood-alcohol percentage, it's likely the bigger drinker has quaffed more beverages.

Might a blood-alcohol content of 0.12 cause you to lose control of your words? It can definitely impair your judgment. According to the National Institutes of Health, a BAC between 0.11 and 0.20 might cause mood swings, anger, sadness, and mania. It could also affect "reasoning and depth perception" and lead to "inappropriate social behavior (e.g., obnoxiousness)."

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

* Correction, August 2, 2006: This piece originally stated that 1 ounce of 80 proof alcohol has the same amount of alcohol as 5 ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer. The equivalent amount is 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked.
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 11:34 AM Louis C.K. Crashes a Brad Pitt Interview on Between Two Ferns
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.