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Chapter 2. Physiological Factors: Part Two

Florida Drug and Alcohol Test (TLSAE) Course:  Chapter 2. Physiological Factors: Part Two

In Brief:

Section 2.2. Short- and Long-term Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on the Human Body

Alcohol is a drug, a depressant, and it affects the central nervous system, as well as the rest of the body. Heart rate and respiration are affected. Alcohol is a drug in many respects: It's a painkiller or anesthetic because it numbs the body; it's a diuretic, so it will increase urination, eliminating water from the body.

ETHANOL AND ITS EFFECTS

Ethanol is a colorless, water-soluble alcohol. It's the active principle in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol is a 2-carbon alcohol responsible for the behavior-altering effects of alcoholic beverages. That's why, when people drink, their judgment and inhibitions are affected, usually causing them to feel more relaxed, friendly and outgoing. Alcohol (ethanol) also impairs a person's motor abilities, including reaction time, muscle coordination, eyesight and depth perception, which impairs driving ability.

Even low doses of alcohol interfere with memory and make it difficult for the brain to process new information. For example, after a night of drinking, a person might drive themselves home and not remember the next day exactly what happened the night before.


If the person continues to drink, alcohol (ethanol) can slow or even stop her or his lungs and heart from functioning, which can cause death. This stage is not commonly reached because the body will reject the alcohol by vomiting.

With increasing doses, alcohol (ethanol) depresses more and more brain functions, rendering the person temporarily demented, with inappropriate behavior, lack of coordination, and poor judgment. Alcohol (ethanol) effects can be unpredictable. In some instances, the drinker may have abnormal mood swings and become aggressive, depressed or violent.

The chart below illustrates the different physical states when consuming alcohol (ethanol):

Ethanol Dose
(oz/hour)
Ethanol Dose
(mg/100ml)
Function Impaired Physical State
1 to 4 up to 100 Judgment, fine motor coordination, reaction time Happy, talkative, boastful
4 to 12 100-300 Motor coordination, reflexes Staggering gait, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting
12 to 16 300-400 Voluntary responses to stimulation Hypothermia, anesthesia
16 to 24 400-600 Sensation, movement, self-protective reflexes Comatose
24 to 30 600-900 Breathing, heart function Dead


(Iowa Health System: http://www.ihs.org/body.cfm?id=23)

ALCOHOL AND YOUR BRAIN

Two important centers are located in your brain: judgment and inhibitions. When these areas become depressed, driving is not possible. As we all know, judgment is necessary when you're behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Not just the judgment concerning how fast you are going, but also the judgment concerning just how capable you are of handling the vehicle.

Loss of Judgment


Most people do not realize it when they are impaired by alcohol.

Both alcohol and drugs affect a person's ability to make sound decisions.

Both thinking and reasoning become impaired when people drink or take drugs. We can tell just by the fact that once a person has one drink, they're more likely to have another and then another. They become less likely to consider the consequences of their actions. They underestimate the risks of being on the road, and overestimate their ability to tolerate alcohol. Their judgment is affected; they're less likely to compensate for their other losses, such as impaired vision and slower reaction time, by driving more carefully than usual.

Alcohol is a depressant, and when the part of the brain that controls judgment becomes depressed, the person that is drinking loses the ability to judge any situation properly.

Alcohol and other drugs act primarily on the nerve cells within the brain. Alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells, suppressing the activities of excitatory nerve pathways and increasing the activities of inhibitory nerve pathways.

Alcohol affects various centers in the brain, both higher and lower order. The centers are not equally affected by the same B.A.C. - the higher-order centers are more sensitive than the lower-order centers. As the B.A.C. increases, more and more centers of the brain are affected. Each center affected has a different impact on our driving abilities.

The order in which alcohol affects the various brain centers is as follows:
  1. Cerebral cortex
    The cerebral cortex is the highest portion of the brain. The cortex processes information from your senses, does your "thought" processing, and initiates most voluntary muscle movements.

  2. Limbic system
    The limbic system controls emotions and memory.

  3. Cerebellum
    The cerebellum controls fine movements. For example, you can normally touch your finger to your nose in one smooth motion with your eyes closed; if your cerebellum were not functioning, the motion would be extremely shaky or jerky.

  4. Hypothalamus and pituitary gland
    The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that controls and influences many automatic functions of the brain through actions on the medulla, and coordinates many chemical or endocrine functions through chemical and nerve impulse actions on the pituitary gland.

  5. Medulla (brain stem)
    The medulla, or brain stem, controls or influences all of the bodily functions that you do not have to think about, like breathing, heart rate, temperature and consciousness.

(Blood Alcohol Information: http://www.bloodalcohol.info/how-alcohol-affects-the-brain.php)

PHYSICAL EFFECTS AT VARIOUS B.A.C (Blood Alcohol Concentration) LEVELS


B.A.C   EFFECTS
0.02-0.03   No loss of coordination; slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent, but driving skills may be impaired at this level.
     
0.04-0.06   Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lowered inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory; lowering of caution.Driving skills may be impaired at this level.
     
0.07-0.09   Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgment and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired. Driving skills are always impaired at this level.
     
0.10-0.12   Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria.
     
0.13-0.15   Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reduced and anxiety and restlessness begins to appear.
     
0.16-0.20   Anxiety and restlessness predominate; nausea may appear. The drinker has the appearance of "sloppiness."
     
0.25   Needs assistance with walking; total mental confusion. Anxiety and restlessness with nausea and some vomiting.
     
0.30   Loss of consciousness.
     
0.40 and up   Onset of coma, possible death due to respiratory arrest.
     

The effects of alcohol are greatly influenced by individual variations among users. Some users will be impaired at a much lower B.A.C than others. Death can occur at lower B.A.Cs in some individuals.

(Bailey, William J., Drug Use in American Society, 3rd ed., Minneapolis: Burgess, 1993)

ALCOHOL'S EFFECTS ON OTHER BODY SYSTEMS

In addition to the brain, alcohol can affect other parts of the body. It has the following effects on other systems in the body:

Central Nervous System
  • Depressed
  • High levels can result in coma or death
  • Gastrointestinal irritation resulting in ulcers, erosion of lining and pancreatic irritations
Liver
  • Change in fat metabolism and eventual scarring of the liver
Circulatory System
  • Temporary increase in heartbeat and blood pressure
  • Peripheral blood vessels dilate, resulting in heat loss and feeling of warmth
Fluid Balance
  • Water shifts within the body to give feeling of thirst
  • Diuretic effect increases urine output
Sensation and Perception
  • Reduced sensitivity to taste and odor
  • Tunnel vision: reduction in peripheral sight
  • Limits ability to distinguish light intensity
  • Sensitivity to colors, especially red, decreases
Motor Performance
  • Large doses of alcohol impair most types of motor performance
  • Alcohol increases loss of balance, especially if eyes are closed
  • Coordination for tracing moving objects is impaired
Attention, Memory and Conceptual Process
  • Inhibits the ability to absorb information from more than one source at a time
  • Affects accuracy and consistency of a task, more so than it affects speed
  • Significant memory loss occurs with high doses of alcohol; may cause blackouts involving amnesia
  • Creates difficulties in processing and later recalling information
Emotions
  • Decreases inhibitions and "frees" people up in stressful situations
  • Reduced inhibitions may lead to mistakes in judgment involving other drugs, driving, sex, and violent behavior
Sleep
  • Several drinks decrease REM, or dreaming sleep, resulting in impaired concentration and memory, increased anxiety, tiredness and irritability
(Johns Hopkins University: http://www.jhu.edu/health/pdfdocs/EtOHEffects.pdf)

Long- term Effects of Alcohol

Cirrhosis of the liver, blood disorders, brain damage, kidney failure, and heart damage are some of the long-term effects of alcohol on the human body.


(NIAAA: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/10report/intro.pdf)


Florida Drug and Alcohol Test (TLSAE) Course:

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Who is required to take this 4-hour drug and alcohol course?

This is a first-time drivers ed course for new aspiring drivers. The state of Florida requires all new drivers take a 4-hour drug and alcohol course. If you want your Permit License you must take this course. You can take the DATA course when you are 14 1/2. You can sign up right now at our website. Our course is easy and fun!
  •     Florida 4 hour first-time drivers course also referred as:
  •     TLSAE - Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education
  •     DATA - Drug Alcohol Traffic Awareness course
  •     DATE Drug Alcohol Traffic Awareness Education course
  •     ADAPT - Alcohol Drugs Accident Prevention Training
  •     Drug & Alcohol Course or Drug and Alcohol Class
  •     Florida Permit Test or Florida Permit Exam Course
  •     The Permit Test is also known as the DMV Exam or DMV Test
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