Drinking to excess and the tipping point: An international study of alcohol intoxication in 61,000 people
People who use alcohol often seek to manage their intake in order to maximise the [perceived] pleasurable effects, such as feelings of sociability and relaxation, without reaching their ‘tipping point’, where they feel out of control, or unwell. This paper aimed to explore three stages of intoxication; feeling the effects; being as intoxicated as you would like to be; and reaching the tipping point (feeling more intoxicated than you want to be) in a large international sample.
The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is an annual, cross-sectional, online survey of drug use. This paper draws on data from 61,043 respondents (63.7% male) from 21 countries who took part in GDS2015 collected in November 2014 to January 2015. Respondents reported their usual type of alcoholic beverage; how many units of alcohol they would require to reach each stage of intoxication and how frequently they reached each stage. Alongside socio-demographic measures, they also completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).
Male respondents reported consuming 87.55 gm to be as intoxicated as they want to be and female respondents reported 70.16 gm, on average. The tipping point was reached at 138.65 gm for male respondents and 106.54 gm for female respondents. Overall 20.3% reported reaching their tipping point at least once a month. Being male, aged under 25 and at higher risk for alcohol use disorder was associated with reporting reaching the tipping point more frequently.
The amount of alcohol being consumed to reach a desired point of intoxication is much higher than the maximum daily, and sometimes weekly, amount recommended by country guidelines. Encouraging people to avoid reaching their tipping point may be a useful intervention point alongside better communication of low risk drinking guidelines.