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Low Levels of Blood Alcohol Produce Measurable Physiological and Subjective Effects in Social Drinkers

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Subtle physiological changes involving the cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems after exposure to alcohol are difficult to perceive in humans, particularly at lower alcohol levels. Researchers sought to determine the effect of acute intravenous alcohol infusion on skin blood flow (SBF) response and associated subjective responses in 24 social drinkers who participated in an alcohol self-administration study. SBF was measured at the fingertip and earlobe at four timepoints: at baseline, and 0 minutes, 10 minutes, and 20 minutes after beginning an intravenous form of alcohol self-administration. The exposure produced relatively low breath alcohol levels of approximately 30 mg% (0.03%, compared with a reading of 0.08%, at which point an individual is considered legally intoxicated). Subjective responses were measured using questionnaires previously developed for studies such as this.

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