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Drunkenness is the state of being intoxicated by consumption of alcohol to a degree that mental and physical facilities are noticeably impaired. Common symptoms may include slurred speech, impaired balance, poor coordination, flushed face, reddened eyes, reduced inhibition, hiccuping, and uncharacteristic behavior. Drunkenness can result in temporary experience of a wide range of emotion, ranging from anger, sadness, and depression to euphoria, lightheartedness and joviality. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol may lead to a hangover the next day. Addiction researcher Griffith Edwards points out the dual chemical and psycho-cultural influences on the behaviour of a drunken person: "Intoxication with alcohol is a temporary chemically induced mental disorder where the intoxicated person is generally not out of touch with reality, but will still respond to what culture dictates."[1]


Laws on drunkenness vary between countries. In the United States, for example, it is commonly a minor offense for an individual to be so intoxicated in a public place that he or she is unable to care for his or her own safety or the safety of others. This degree of intoxication is considerably higher than the standard for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs ("drunk driving"), which commonly requires intoxication to the degree that mental and physical faculties are impaired. In the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland and Canada, this is legally defined as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater for operating a motor vehicle. In countries such as Australia, the BAC limit is lower at 0.05%. Additionally, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibits pilots from operating aircraft with any BAC greater than 0.04%, or operating an aircraft after consuming any alcoholic beverage within 8 hours. A legally drunk person on public property may also be taken into custody for public intoxication in many jurisdictions, even when not operating a vehicle.

In the United Kingdom and United States, police have powers to arrest those deemed too intoxicated in a public place for being "drunk and disorderly" or even "drunk and incapable".

There are often many legal restrictions relating to sale and supply of alcohol, and particularly relating to those persons under 18 years of age (19 or 21 in some jurisdictions) or to somebody who is already intoxicated. However in some countries such as Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark, customers can buy alcoholic drinks such as beer or wine from the age of 16 years, although not spirits.

Religious views

Many religious groups permit the consumption of alcohol but prohibit intoxication. Some prohibit alcohol consumption altogether. In Islam, there is an absolute prohibition on the consumption of date wine, and intoxication is considered as an abomination in the Qur'an and Hadith. Most mainstream Islamic schools of law (Madh'hab) have interpreted this as a strict prohibition of the consumption of all types of alcohol and other intoxicants such as illegal drugs.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2290: "The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air." The Church does not prohibit the use of alcohol in moderation; and indeed, the ritual use of alcoholic altar wine during the Mass is central to the Roman Catholic liturgy.

Many Protestant Christian denominations prohibit drunkenness due to the Biblical passages condemning it (for instance, Proverbs 23:21, Isa. 28:1, Hab. 2:15) but many allow moderate use of alcohol (see Christianity and alcohol).

Further reading

  • Bales, Robert F. Attitudes toward Drinking in the Irish culture. In: Pittman, David J. and Snyder, Charles R. (Eds.) Society, Culture and Drinking Patterns. NY: Wiley, 1962, pp. 157-187.
  • Gentry, Kenneth L., Jr., God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says about Alcohol. Lincoln, Calif.: Oakdown, 2001.
  • "Out of It. A Cultural History of Intoxication" by Stuart Walton. (Penguin Books, 2002) ISBN 0-14-027977-6
  • "Modern Drunkard" magazine - a humorous magazine about drink and the art of getting drunk
  • Famous Drinking Quotes - a collection of quotes about drinking from famous alcohol enthusiasts


  1. Griffith Edwards. Alcohol: The World's Favourite Drug. 1st US ed. Thomas Dunne Books: 2002. ISBN 0-312-28387-3. p 57.
  • 2. Sigmund, Paul. St. Thomas Aquinas On Politics And Ethics. W.W Norton & Company, Inc:1988 p. 77

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