The estimation of blood alcohol concentration : Widmark revisited

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2007 Mar;3(1):33-9. doi: 10.1385/FSMP:3:1:33.


Expert witnesses and others involved in toxicology are frequently asked to perform retrograde extrapolation of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or to estimate BAC based on a proposed drinking scenario. Although many individuals are reluctant to perform these calculations and some jurisdictions expressly prohibit them, a significant number of practitioners routinely estimate BAC based on this type of calculation, using as a basis the fundamental work of Widmark. Although improvements to the Widmark formula and other data pertaining to the pharmacology of alcohol have been published, these improvements are frequently ignored when estimating BAC. This article summarizes five published models for the estimation of BAC and proposes a sixth model that incorporates recent data on the rate of absorption of alcohol from the GI tract into the existing five models. The five improved models can be computerized and used to construct comparative snapshots of the BACs calculated by the different algorithms. This will allow practitioners to provide a more balanced picture of the variability in BAC calculations.