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Health Matters: Myths and Realities of Social Drinking

The truth about Solo cups, coffee, and “beer before liquor”


Beth Grampetro, the health educator at Student Health Services. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Forget what you’ve heard about why it’s OK for you to drink more than your friends, how to sober up fast, and how to avoid a hangover. To get the facts about five common myths about social drinking, BU Today talked with Beth Grampetro, the health educator at Student Health Services.

Myth #1: It’s good to have a high tolerance for alcohol, because you can drink more and for a longer period of time.
Grampetro: Students who have a higher alcohol tolerance have a higher risk of alcohol poisoning, because they feel fine and are unaware of how intoxicated they really are.

Myth #2: Drinking water or coffee can help you sober up.
Grampetro: Wrong. It takes approximately one hour for the body to process one alcoholic beverage, and nothing can speed that up.

Myth #3: Red Solo cups hold one drink, so it’s easy to keep track of how much you drink.
First of all, red cups are typically 16 ounces — larger than one drink. Second, it depends on what you put in the cup. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (also known as a shot), or 4 ounces of wine. Because a Solo cup is so large, students may pour more than the recommended amount of alcohol into their cups thinking they’re just filling the cup, but the cup holds much more than one recommended drink.

Myth #4: Beer before liquor makes you sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.
Guess again. The leading factor in feeling hung over or getting sick is the amount of alcohol consumed, not the order that the drinks are consumed.

Myth #5: It’s fine for women to try to keep pace with men when drinking.
Women’s bodies break down the toxins in alcohol more slowly than men’s bodies do, so women shouldn’t try to keep pace with men. Birth control pills also affect how fast a woman’s body can process alcohol, so a woman may become intoxicated after fewer drinks.

Grampetro suggests that students who know they will be drinking eat a full meal before heading out. It’s also a good idea, she says, to drink water in between alcoholic drinks. That will help the body stay hydrated — plus, you’ll feel full and drink less alcohol.

How fast or slow should you drink? Grampetro says students should never drink more than one drink an hour.

Finally, Grampetro says the most important thing you can do is look out for your friends. “If everyone’s heading home,” she says, “don’t leave one person alone at the party, even if they want to stay.”

If students are looking for something to do other than drink, there’s plenty of entertainment in Boston.

For more information, check out the University’s Policy on Illegal Drugs and Alcohol. Alcohol is not allowed in BU residence halls or at University-sponsored events if you’re not of age.

For more information and to get answers to your health and wellness questions, become a fan of the Facebook group Be Well at BU.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.


16 Comments on Health Matters: Myths and Realities of Social Drinking

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 7:28 am

    BU Alcohol

    Alcohol is allowed in BU Dorms (I know at least the apartment style dorms) in a moderate amount. Its fair enough.

  • Aaron on 09.15.2008 at 8:40 am

    Totally Contrived

    Ms. Laskowski’s article seems completely contrived. Each myth feels like a specific talking point handed down by BU higher ups to advocate a specific message they want to send.

    And furthermore, the article perpetuates the perceived norm that everyone drinks in college when in fact that is hardly the case.

    Plus, myth one is strictly opinion. Framing a higher amount of alcohol tolerance as “good” or “bad” is subjective. It’s like “stranger danger” – horribly oversimplified.

    Not to mention no references are given and the answers are quite minimal.

    I reject BU’s attempt at faux health policy for the student body delivered through what is represented as our university daily reader rathen than a university official talking points memo.

  • amlaskow on 09.15.2008 at 8:49 am

    Read this

    Consuming alcohol on campus, if you are over 21, is allowed according to the University’s Alcohol Policy:
    “Students who are twenty-one years of age or older and possess a Massachusetts driver’s license are currently extended the privilege to possess and consume alcoholic beverages in University residences. Such privileges may be revoked.”

    Click here to read more:

    Thanks guys,

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 9:28 am

    Myths I've never heard...

    Judging from a lot of my friends both here and back home, I’d think that I’d have heard a lot of these, whereas I’ve only heard the Coffee one, which generally goes by the term “Bull****”

    Like someone else said, it’s pretty clear that this is contrived, and each point is specifically made to propagandize us.

    I think, if you’re going to drink, learn to be smart about it. Massive parties aren’t the greatest places to go drinking, but a little when you’re hanging out with friends is unlikely to go bad.

  • Z on 09.15.2008 at 12:08 pm

    Hi. It’s alcohol. People choose to put it in their bodies. It’s their own problem after that. If people don’t have a sense to control themselves and believe such ridiculous myths, I mean, what is there to say? They’re asking for it.

    The US makes too big a deal out of alcohol and being of age. It shouldn’t even matter. Lift the drinking age limit and you’ll see that perhaps even less people drink than most people would expect.

    My little cousins who are 16 and under go and buy beer (they live in another country) and they drink it with their younger siblings and friends. There’s no barfights or drunken driving or anything ridiculous like the stories the American media blows up and exaggerates on TV. Honestly, if anything, they’re happier and feel more freedom than young people here feel.

    Having a drinking age limit is pathetic and stupid to begin with.

    Oh yeah. Nice article. I don’t care about alcohol. I drink it when I need to. Usually I don’t, but getting a buzz during an all nighter makes studying a lot easier. Drinking to the extent of puking is lack of common sense and waste of energy and time (you need time to recuperate), and it’s for people who don’t know any better than to treat their bodies well. People should learn to control themselves.

  • Marty on 09.15.2008 at 1:47 pm

    This is garbage. The “5 myths” push the article towards a clear, poorly disguised agenda.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 2:21 pm

    re: contrived?

    Propoganda? I think not.

    If what Ms. Grampeto is doing is based on opinion, then what can we trust as science? We have to look at what she’s talking about.

    Defn. 1 of “tolerance” in the dictionary includes: “the capacity to endure continued subjection to something, esp. a drug, transplant, antigen, or environmental conditions, without adverse reaction” (Apple dictionary).

    What she’s trying to get across then, is that alcohol in large amounts is a bad thing. Alcohol poisoning is dangerous. Even if you throw up, there’s still alcohol in your system that’s not doing you any good if it’s above a certain concentration.

    So what tolerance means in the context of health and safety, which is the frame of this article, is that two people of unequal tolerance will react to alcohol differently: the one with lower tolerance will feel drunker quicker, and (usu.) stop drinking sooner; the one with higher tolerance will not feel as drunk as quickly, and so will continue to drink after person A has. Who is being safer?

    I like drinking alcohol because I think it’s fun, like many people, but I doubt that the intent of the article was to imply that “everyone drinks”, as you claim. And even those who find alcohol enjoyable to consume must admit that it is not entirely “safe” and risk-free. Anyone who denies that is going to end up dead.

    But for the rest of us who like staying alive while we drink, a little acknowledgement of risk is a good thing. Now then, drink up!

  • Beth on 09.15.2008 at 2:53 pm

    This coming from the woman trying to shut the Pub down? I don’t know what your history is with alcohol, lady, but leave those of us who enjoy it alone in peace please.

  • Oscar on 09.15.2008 at 3:47 pm

    You can't be serious...

    Some of these comments are ridiculous

    Whenever you get anyone talking about alcohol certain readers only hear that they’re not supposed to take part in any of the fun. This article does not have some contrived agenda sent down from Jack Donaghy and the hire-ups. All this article is saying is to not be a total dumbass when you drink. Read the article people.

    In regards to the lack of a drinking age – I agree. I believe that lowering or eliminating the drinking age will lead to less binge drinking and more responsible consumers.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 4:20 pm


    frickin’ a, people. you think the advice to not leave your friends alone, and drunk, is propaganda? you must be some sh*tty friends. and DEFinitely the advice about moderation is propaganda, communistic, too, since it’s talking about RED solo cups. seriously. if this is propaganda the univ is handing out — be careful and take it easy when drinking — it’s not very hard hitting.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 5:06 pm

    Beer before liquor

    “Beer before liquor you’ve never been sicker, liquor before beer you’re in the clear,” has nothing to do with having a hangover. From anyone I’ve ever talked to this just refers to getting sick while drinking. It’s common sense that if you plan on consuming both liquor and beer, the liquor should be drunk first so as not to get sick. This is probably best for people to know who don’t drink very much, myself included. Interesting article, but more opinionated than scientific.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 5:15 pm

    Cynicism runs deep. . .

    Judging by some of the comments, it’s a shame that some of us have become so cynical to the point of believing that University leaders don’t have the backbone to speak candidly with the student body. This would have never crossed my mind after reading the article. If there is a cause for concern about students consuming alcohol, I trust that the officials will be direct with the student body.

    It is unusual that some of us have found this simple article so objectionable and sneaky.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2008 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve been drinking socially in moderation for decades, and made and survived a few mistakes drinking as a college student. What follows are things that I’ve learned that I wish someone had told me when I was a college student.

    1. I don’t try to match other people’s alcohol consumption. Learn how alcohol effects you, and then choose how much you wish to consume. It’s much better to be less drunk than others.

    2. I don’t drive a car or ride a bicycle within two hours of having a drink. There is no threshold below which alcohol is safe driving around Boston. Everyone understands when you say “I’m driving.”

    3. I try to drink something non-alcoholic before drinking something alcoholic, because the alcohol is absorbed more slowly. Drink slowly, particularly when you don’t know how much alcohol is in a drink.

  • HumanProject on 09.15.2008 at 11:40 pm

    Question about intoxication speed

    I liked the way the answers to the myths included useful and not always well known information, such as the point that it takes the body approximately one hour to process one alcoholic beverage.

    Are there some general guidelines about how slowly one needs to drink in order not to feel effects of inebriation? Because my impression is that one can get tipsy even if drinking just one drink per hour.

    I liked the point by “propaganda?” about the advice being offered here as “communistic.”


    The soviet government frequently had public information campaigns warning against excessive alcohol consumption. These campaigns were widely laughed at and parodied, but generally because they were preachy and unreasonable. As “propaganda?” noted, the BU Today articles was pretty mild stuff.

  • Anonymous on 09.16.2008 at 11:27 pm

    Get your facts straight

    To the individuals who believe that Ms. Grampetro is trying the shut the Pub down – you are wrong. Period.

    This is a basic article, if you are looking for more complex and “hard hitting” information, then go meet with Ms. Grampetro yourself. She is a very knowledgeable person about alcohol, drugs, sexuality and other aspects of health and wellness. She is a generalist on a campus where it is clear needs more health educators to get the word out about all aspects of wellness.

    My understanding is that MIT has a STAFF of health educators who specialize in various areas. We have many more students than MIT, but we only have one health educator. Maybe we should be looking into this, rather than opening offices that aren’t professionally staffed (read: the new women’s center).

    One more time, if you think Ms. Grampetro is trying to shut down the Pub, get your facts straight by speaking the the dining services management. If you think she is being a propagandist, then you need to look up the definition of propaganda. And finally, if you think that there is no problem with drinking on the BU campus, then you may want to open your eyes and take a look at the big blue sky and drink in a big dose of reality. BU is a college campus, SOME students drink, and SOME of them drink to excess … don’t think that it isn’t happening. If you do, then someone is serving up some propaganda and you are drinking it in quite willingly

  • chloe on 08.31.2011 at 11:20 am

    i don’t think it’s science as much as it is knowing yourself what your limits are. and if we have any experience drinking, we do. if someone is of a mindset to binge drink or drink too much i don’t think anything can be said to stop them.

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