Blood Alcohol and Gibson's Impaired Judgment

Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson issued a statement asking the Jewish community to help him battle his problems with alcohol. The statement comes days after his arrest for drunken driving, when he reportedly launched into an anti-Semitic tirade in front of deputies. Slate senior editor Andy Bowers explores how Gibson's blood-alcohol level at the time of his arrest might have affected his judgment.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Actor and Director Mel Gibson has apologized for making anti-Semitic remarks after he was arrested for drunk driving early Friday morning. He said in a statement he is not an anti-Semite and not a bigot. But, he was drunk according to police, a breathalyzer test determined his blood alcohol content was .12 percent, the legal limit - .08 percent.

So how drunk was Mel Gibson? The explainer team at the online magazine Slate has the answer, and here is Slate's, Andy Bowers.

ANDY BOWERS reporting:

Pretty drunk assuming the 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 .012 percent. One drink is roughly equivalent to a shot of 80 proof alcohol, five ounces of wine, or twelve ounces of beer.

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. You'd want to know 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 one drink an hour. Heavier drinkers process alcohol even faster and in a statement, Gibson claims to be battling alcoholism, that means if a heavy drinker and an infrequent drinker have the same blood alcohol percentage, it's likely the bigger drinker has downed more beverages.

Might a blood alcohol content of .12 cause you to lose control of your words? It can definitely impair your judgment according to the national institutes of health a reading between .11 and .20 might cause mood swings, anger sadness and mania. It could also affect reasoning and depth perception and lead to quote, inappropriate social behavior, for example: obnoxiousness, unquote.

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CHADWICK: Andy Bowers is a senior editor for the online magazine Slate. And that explainer was compiled by Christopher Beam. No relation to Jim.

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