DOI: 10.1093/jat/bkae008 ISSN: 0146-4760

Dubowski’s stages of alcohol influence and clinical signs and symptoms of drunkenness in relation to a person’s blood-alcohol concentration – Historical background

Alan Wayne Jones
  • Chemical Health and Safety
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry


This article traces the origin of various charts and tables delineating the stages of alcohol influence in relation to the clinical signs and symptoms of drunkenness and a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). In forensic science and legal medicine, the most widely used such table was created by Professor Kurt M. Dubowski (University of Oklahoma). The first version of the Dubowski alcohol table was published in 1957, and minor modifications appeared in various articles and book chapters until the final version was published in 2012. Seven stages of alcohol influence were identified including subclinical (sobriety), euphoria, excitement, confusion, stupor, alcoholic coma, and death. The BAC causing death was initially reported as 0.45+ g%, although the latest version cited a mean and median BAC of 0.36 g% with 90% range from 0.21 g% to 0.50 g%. An important feature of the Dubowski alcohol table was the overlapping ranges of BAC for each stages of alcohol influence. This was done to reflect physiological variations in the effects of alcohol on the nervous system between different individuals. Information gleaned from the Dubowski table is not intended to apply to any specific individual, but more generally for a population of social drinkers, not regular heavy drinkers or alcoholics. Under real world conditions, much will depend on a person’s age, race, gender, pattern of drinking, habituation to alcohol, and the development of central nervous tolerance. The impairment effects of ethanol also depend to some extent on whether observations are made on the rising or declining phase of the blood-alcohol curve (Mellanby effect). There will always be some individuals who don’t exhibit the expected behavioral impairment effects of ethanol, such as regular heavy drinkers and those suffering from an alcohol use disorder.

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