Field of Science

Picture says more than a thousand words

"Unlawful killing" was implicated in Princess Diana's death by a British court yesterday. Her driver Henri Paul's blood report indicated an ethanol level of 1.78 g/L which comes out to 178 mg/dL. Wikipedia says that even 100 mg/dL causes "central nervous system depression, impaired motor and sensory function, impaired cognition" and >140 mg/dL causes "decreased blood flow to the brain".

But even without knowing all this, if I had simply looked at the bloke's face before the crash, I would have been a little unwilling to have him as my driver for the night. Take a look...

Image Hosted by


  1. Agreed, the driver looks plastered. However, chronic alcoholics appear much less intoxicated at these levels (178 mg%) than people who drink only occasionally. An ER MD friend in Montana back in the 70s saw an Indian (no one, least of all themselves, called them native Americans back then) stone sober with a blood alcohol of 300 mg%. Nondrinkers would be comatose at these levels.

    Parenthetically, this shows what a weak a drug alcohol actually is. The molecular mass of ethanol is 46. 100 mg% is 1 gram/liter or about .02 molar. Most drugs we use are active at blood levels thousands to millions less.


  2. Interesting. But I wonder if even seasoned alcoholics will be able to drive at 100 mph with 178 mg%. I also wonder if people actually develop resistance to alcohol through mutations. I do know that people from some races are apparently less predisposed to better "hold" their alcohol.

  3. You didn't say race did you? That is a gigantic can of worms. However, even the politically correct admit that the incidence of alcoholism on USA reservations is gigantic. Much work has been expended to find a difference in metabolism of alcohol in native Americans, with minimal results by the time I stopped reading this literature in '00.

    I do find it amusing that native Americans are relatively uninterested in gambling, using it to exploit "the white man's weakness", as we supposedly used alcohol to exploit theirs.


  4. Yes, that's quite amusing. I guess I should have said "nationality" but that would have been even more scientifically inaccurate! I was referring to a fact that I don't quite remember now, about either Southeast Asians or Japanese being more alcohol-intolerant compared to others. Have you come across something like that?

  5. Since our gut is a complete eco-system the intestinal flora may also be of some importance. As for (in)tolerance in Asians this is probably related to lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase - the enzyme that converts ethanol to hang-over (acetaldehyde). Tolerance in drinkers is due to added protection of the nerv cells caused by regular drinking. The 'resistance' to alcohol is induced quite rapidly - it only takes a month or so - and disappears just as fast (provided you get sober).

    Once you get liver damage you'll get drunk on a can of lite beer - but by then its game-over anyway :-(


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS