Resources on Alcohol
Click on the topics below to learn more:
Safer Drinking Tips
If you choose to drink alcohol, consider using these lower-risk drinking tips:
- Grab some grub.
Eat a meal before you start drinking. Food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
- Read the labels.
Make sure it’s safe to drink with any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) you might be taking.
- Make a plan.
Decide ahead of time where you’re going and how you’re getting home.
- Stay hydrated.
Alternate alcohol beverages with water.
- Pace yourself.
The body can only metabolize 1 drink per hour.
- Know your Solo.
Learn how to pour a standard drink so you can accurately keep track of how much you’re drinking.
- Mix with juice or soda.
Energy drinks can lead you to drink beyond your limit.
- Sit one out.
Pass on shots and games to avoid getting out of control.
- Set a limit.
Decide how much you’ll drink ahead of time and stick to it.
- Stick together.
If you go out together, come home together.
- Take a night off.
Friends will respect and support the decision not to drink.
As someone drinks, alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream—resulting in Blood Alcohol Content or Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). BAC is the ratio of alcohol to blood in the body, usually expressed as a percentage. BAC is calculated by how many milligrams of alcohol are present per 100 milliliters of blood.
A lower BAC (.02-.05) is related to positive effects from alcohol like feelings of relaxation and confidence. A higher BAC (.06+) is related to more negative, dangerous effects like blackouts or severe impairment.
There are several factors that affect Blood Alcohol Concentration.
In general, people that weigh less are affected more quickly by alcohol.
Since women tend to have greater percent body fat than men, their BAC generally rise more quickly. In addition, women have less of the stomach enzyme that is required to digest alcohol than men. Hormonal fluctuations can also intensify the effects of alcohol in women.
Eating before or while drinking slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and slows down the rate at which BAC rises.
- Strength of Drink
Alcohol content can vary greatly by type of alcohol or drink. Given the same amount of liquid, hard liquor is stronger than wine or beer.
- Rate of Drinking
Your body can only metabolize one standard drink per hour. If someone drinks more than one drink per hour, his or her BAC will rise moer quickly.
- Drug Use
Legal or illegal drugs can potentiate the effects of alcohol and have an unpredictable outcome. Even some over-the-counter medications can do this—so you should always check with a doctor or pharmacist before mixing alcohol with any drug.
Estimate your own blood alcohol concentration using this BAC calculator.
Alcohol & the Body
Alcohol poisoning is the body’s physiological reaction to excessive alcohol in the body. Like other drugs, it is possible to overdose on alcohol. If a person is showing signs of alcohol poisoning and isn’t treated, he/she can choke on their own vomit, become hypothermic, have seizures from dehydration or low-blood sugar levels, or die. A person’s breathing and heart rate may also slow down, become irregular, or stop. Severe dehydration can also lead to permanent brain damage or death.
There are several warnings that a person is experiencing alcohol poisoning. Think PUBS:
- Puking excessively whether the person is awake, sleeping, or passed out.
- Unresponsive; it is hard to wake them or make them talk to you.
- Breathing that is slow or irregular
- Skin that is cool, pale, bluish, or clammy
Taking action when someone is showing any of these signs is critical. The important thing is to take the situation seriously. Your friend and the people who care about them will thank you for helping them through a dangerous situation.
Hangovers and Blackouts
Hangovers often consist of a headache (caused by alcohol making blood vessels expand), feelings of thirstiness (due to dehydration from alcohol), nausea or vomiting, dizziness or light-headedness, impaired attention and concentration, and disrupted sleep cycle.
Blackouts are not a loss of consciousness or passing out, but are caused by high levels of alcohol in the body that prevent the brain from forming memories. When experiencing a blackout, a person could not remember a few minutes of the night, a conversation, or entire hours of time. Events like driving or having sex may be forgotten. A blackout may not be apparent to others because the person may have conversations and seem mentally present. However, that person will not recall the conversation later on.
Experiencing a blackout is a sign of dangerous drinking. To speak with someone about your drinking habits, please call us at (617) 358-0485.
“My alcohol use does not affect others.”
When someone is overly intoxicated, they affect everyone around them—from friends who have to take care of and worry about them, to the T driver helping them get home. When someone drinks too much, he/she can lose the ability to take care of themselves and it becomes the responsibility and business of others. This is considered a secondhand effect of alcohol—even if you’re not the one consuming alcohol you can still be affected by those around you who do.
“I drink to be social.”
Drinking socially is much different than binge drinking, which is defined as 4+ drinks for women and 5+ drinks for men in a two-hour sitting. The next time you decide to drink, pay attention to how much you are drinking and how it is affecting you. See if you have just as much fun with a few drinks less. This will also help to decrease any negative consequences you may experience.
“I can sober up quickly if I have to.”
The body can metabolize the alcohol content of one standard drink per hour. Nothing can speed up this process—only time will sober a person up!
“Having a higher tolerance is a good thing.”
If someone has to drink increasingly greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effects, he/she is developing a tolerance. Tolerance is actually a warning sign that the person may be developing a more serious problem with alcohol.
Did You Know?
For college students it is most often the inattention to how much and how quickly they are drinking that gets them into trouble!
- The red cups (yeah, they come in other colors, too) are typically 18 oz. That means if you fill a cup with beer you are actually drinking a beer and a half!
- A pint of beer (usual glass size at a bar) is 16 oz…that is 1 + 1/3 beers.
- Typically speaking, vodka is 40% alcohol by volume, or 80 proof; gin is 85 proof; rum and tequila are 90 proof; and whiskey is 100 proof…keep this in mind when pouring!
- There are 17 shots in a fifth (or standard) bottle, 22 shots in a liter, and 39 shots in a handle of 80 proof liquor.