Alcohol is the most abused substance in Alaska, according to a report released by Alaska State Troopers on Wednesday. 

According to Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska's Chief Medical Officer, the legal limit for driving of .08 was established because that’s the point when muscle coordination starts to deteriorate and judgment is impaired. But levels like the one Dahl recorded put a person at risk of much worse health problems -- even death.

“Heart rate is beginning to increase but also respiration begins to be depressed and eventually you lose consciousness and with the loss of consciousness, of course, you’re out of control,” says Butler. “Very high levels of alcohol, particularly taken very quickly, can actually suppress the respiratory drive center where someone would actually stop breathing. People do die of acute alcohol poisoning.”

Several factors contribute to how a person’s body processes alcohol, like age, weight, sex and genetics. Dr. Butler says that as people start to become intoxicated, they become worse and worse judges of just how affected they are.

“The perception of intoxication is not very accurate because the more you drink, the more you may actually feel very confident in your abilities and think, ‘This isn’t really touching me at all,’” he said. 

When it comes to getting sober, Dr. Butler says there’s only one option: time.

“From acute intoxication to sobering up, it requires time. There’s no way to shortcut that.”

There are ways to drink alcohol safely and most people can drink without problems. But there are some red flags of alcohol abuse to look for, for those who think it may be a problem. Things like drinking more than 4 or 5 drinks at a time or in a day, disruption at work or in relationships and having legal problems, like a DUI, are all signs there could be a problem. The good news is there are treatment options, even some that are lesser known than others. 

"The drug Naltrexone is being used more and more to treat opioid dependency and actually has activity for treating alcoholism as well. It's underutilized for that purpose but there's good clinical data that shows that it can be an important part of treatment of alcohol abuse."

For Dr. Butler, the major message is to never drink and drive:

“No matter how much you drink or how regularly you drink or how confident you are in whether you're impaired, drinking and getting behind the wheel can kill.”

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