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These Temporary Tattoos Will Tell You How Drunk You Are

Scientists have designed a temporary-tattoo device that will allow you to stop the flow of cheap burgundy before you drown in it.

by Diana Tourjée
Aug 3 2016, 6:39pm

Photo by Howl via Stocksy

There are people who chug jug wine, shoot excessive glassfuls of putrid moonshine, or simply have too many cocktails. You're probably one of them, or have been once. Such people may be young and fashion-forward, their trendy necks choked by a loop of plastic lace, their cropped T-shirts showing off slivers of toned midriff. But what does clever fashion do for them when they become wasted out of their minds, lose their phones, and rob a bank?

Unfortunately, clothes do nothing at all to monitor alcohol consumption. Too many are doomed to the terrible effects of alcohol abuse. If only there were some cute way to know how drunk you were getting before drinking far too much!

Now, there is. Researchers out of the University of California, San Diego recently conducted a study called "Noninvasive Alcohol Monitoring Using a Wearable Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System." Their findings demonstrate a temporary-tattoo device that measures blood alcohol content (BAC) and can deliver your intoxication levels during a night of drinking directly to your phone, allowing you to stop the flood of cheap burgundy before you drown in it.

Read more: Experts Say There's No 'Safe' Level of Alcohol Consumption, Especially For Women

Tested on nine human volunteers as they drank wine and beer in a lab—just like a real party—the device is flat, like a temporary tattoo. In addition to the tattoo's alcohol sensor, it also features a "flexible electronics board" that uses bluetooth technology to transmit info about your messy night. Since the temp tat looks like cyborg tech out of old-school anime, the potentially life-saving technology should be an easy sell to young people who are ravenous for cool, purposeful things seem both dated and futuristic at the same time.

How it works: "Upon consumption, the alcohol passes through the stomach and gastro-intestinal (GI) tract into the bloodstream," the study says. "Afterward, it diffuses to the surrounding body tissues, including the skin." The device measures BAC by analyzing a subject's sweat. also found that their subjects' BAC levels varied from one to another despite having had the same amount to drink and starting drinking at the same time.

Jayoung Kim is a graduate student who was involved in the study, which was led by Joseph Wang, a professor in nanoengineering, and Patrick Mercier, a professor in computer and electrical engineering. In an interview with Broadly, Kim affirmed that this sensor could be used by thirsty youths in bars. "The alerts can be sent to your friends or taxi driver for your safe ride to home," Kim explains.

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Indeed, while this device could be great for casual, personal use, it could also be useful for law enforcement or hospitals. The tattoos allow BAC levels to be sent out to any compatible device, including a tablet, phone, or computer, and it will hopefully promote a decrease in drunk driving in particular. The researchers note that breathalyzers—the most common tool police use to detect BAC levels today—measure BAC in an indirect way; these devices are unreliable—their accuracy can be affected by subtle changes in the environment, like humidity. By contrast, the new tattoo technology "provides an accurate, convenient, and quick way to monitor alcohol consumption to help prevent people from driving while intoxicated," Kim says.

According to statistics published by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur in the United States every year; alcohol misuse costs our country $249 billion annually, and most of that expense is the result of binge drinking specifically. In a statement issued to Broadly, the director of the NIHAAA, Dr. George Koob, explained that this temporary tattoo booze sensor "will be a major step forward for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorders and conditions affected by alcohol use." According to Koob, there are several other devices currently being developed that will also aid in this cause. "Such devices will provide objective data of actual blood alcohol concentrations rather than rely on individuals' self-reports of alcohol use."

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