Reading Time: 8 minutes Before you imbibe, know the side effects of mixing alcohol with prescription and OTC medications.
Ask the nutritionist: “Sugar (e.g., candy bars) is the only thing that gets me to sit down and study. How do I stop this habit?”
Reading Time: 2 minutes It can be tempting to “treat yourself” by eating sugary foods when you study. However, this can leave you with less energy than when you started. Try these healthier alternatives for sustained energy.
Reading Time: 6 minutes Thinking about having a nightcap to help you catch some extra zzz’s before the big exam? Read this article first.
Reading Time: 6 minutes Find out if weekend binge drinking has an effect on your academic performance during the week.
Reading Time: 5 minutes There’s a lot you can do to prevent memory loss down the road. Here are three things you shouldn’t do.
Reading Time: 7 minutes How to turn down (and respond when someone turns down) a drink.
Reading Time: 6 minutes Understanding the connection between alcohol and sexual assault can help us foster stronger, more respectful communities.
Reading Time: 11 minutes Social events are an important part of the college experience. Whether you’re a host or a guest, here’s how to make your next gathering fun for everyone.
Reading Time: 10 minutes Follow these four steps if you’re with someone who drank too much, and when in doubt call 911.
—Jayden*, Portland State University, Oregon
Yes, in ways both large and small. Are there students who drink from time to time and still manage to get good value out of their investment in higher education? Of course. In fact, most students would fit this description. But alcohol can still impair your learning experience. Here are several ways that this can happen:
Time lost to intoxication, hangovers, and/or injuries
If you’re drinking, you aren’t in a state to concentrate or remember, meaning you aren’t learning. For many college students, drinking is part of blowing off steam and relaxing after a hard few hours of academic work. In moderation, this may not present any problems. You just have to weigh the risks and be conscientious in your decision-making. It’s certainly the case that drinking to the point of being sick or having to go to the hospital, or getting in fights or injured, will likely soak up much more time than you’ve budgeted. If you have a big paper due Monday, perhaps it would make sense to take a weekend off from drinking so you have plenty of time to complete your work at a high-quality level. I often challenge students to take two to three weeks off from drinking just to prove to themselves that they can, and to see what it’s like.
Reduced sleep quality and impaired memory formation
Learning has several components. You have to be concentrating when exposed to ideas, in order to form short-term memories. While you sleep, those short-term memories are consolidated into long-term memories. Research has shown a linear relationship between hours of sleep and GPA—in other words, the more you sleep, the better you do academically.
Not sleeping enough, or getting poor-quality sleep, impedes long-term memory formation and thus the learning process. Drinking often affects decision-making, leading you to stay up later than you’d planned, and the sleep that you get when intoxicated is relatively poor quality (though it’s healthier than engaging in other activities while intoxicated; e.g., driving).
Reduced control of emotions (e.g., higher risk of depression)
There are many reasons not to drink on a particular night. Maybe you’re sick or taking medication. Maybe you have a big test the next day, or want to do well at tryout. Maybe you just don’t feel like it. At the top of the list is depression and anxiety. If you are unhappy, don’t drink. Very few things in this world are 100 percent true, but this is one of them: Drinking will worsen your experience of depression. There are much better medicines than alcohol. Ask for help at your student health center or counseling center.
Relationship complications causing upset and distraction from learning
Drinking amplifies most emotions. This can lead to euphoria, arousal, the belief that you’re an amazing dancer, and so on. Drinking can also lead to drama, and sometimes physical violence. It’s your life, of course. Personally, I find my life complicated enough without alcohol ramping things up.
Getting in trouble
Getting in trouble for underage possession, intoxication, vandalism, or anything else does not provide any short-term benefit to your educational experience.
For some students, the stakes are much higher than getting a B instead of the A- you were capable of. About 10–15 percent of people are at particularly high risk for addiction. Their brains are wired in such a way that they struggle to control their relationship with alcohol and/or other substances. Unless they get help, and that help is effective, they are at high risk for suffering serious consequences, such as damaged relationships, financial difficulties, and the inability to complete their schooling on schedule. Sometimes it takes a serious consequence, like failing out of school, to help them come to terms with their condition. But ideally the problem would be identified and rectified before the consequences became profound.
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What if students have gone through treatment for alcohol addiction or drug abuse, and now they’re back on track, focusing on their education and future? Their success in school depends on managing their sobriety. But college comes with stress, academic challenges, and exposure to alcohol or drugs—factors that can raise the risk of relapsing, studies show. Increasingly, substance dependency (or addiction) is understood as a chronic condition that requires ongoing management. For sober students, this is the dilemma: How can they steer clear of those triggers and manage their addiction while also having a fulfilling college experience?
Students are joining recovery programs on campus
Increasingly, students who are “in recovery”—working to maintain their sobriety—are finding the solution in dedicated recovery programs on campuses. These programs vary, but may include drug-free housing, sober hangout space, social events with supportive peers, and meetings, counseling, and academic supports tailored to address the pressures and triggers associated with staying free of alcohol and/or drugs.
More than 170 university campuses now offer some level of recovery programming, according to Transforming Youth Recovery, a nonprofit that provides schools with funding and other resources for this purpose. The organization has a pilot project underway to expand capacity for recovery services at 100 community colleges.
“People are starting to know there is recovery support on college campuses and are looking around for it,” says John Ruyak, an alcohol, drug, and recovery specialist at Oregon State University. In a 2016 study involving nearly 500 students at 29 campus recovery programs, one in three said they would not be in college were it not for that program (Journal of American College Health).
Shifting medical and societal attitudes toward addiction appear to be helping. “There’s a trend to recognize dependency/addiction as a chronic illness, like diabetes or Crohn’s disease,” says Dr. Davis Smith, a staff physician at the University of Connecticut Student Health Center, and medical director of Student Health 101. “Like those physical conditions, substance dependency behaves differently in different individuals, is not a marker of physical or spiritual weakness, and requires ongoing attention/treatment to manage it.”
This increasingly empathic understanding of drug dependency makes it easier for people to seek the resources that could help them. “Students have changed enough that they are not so worried about anonymity as they are about finding the support,” says Dr. Ann Quinn-Zobeck, former senior director of BACCHUS initiatives and training at NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education), a leader in peer-education initiatives addressing alcohol use at US colleges.
It also helps that students in recovery are not the only ones who are avoiding alcohol and drugs. “The data on student alcohol and other drug use makes it clear that while many students do use at some level, more and more are abstaining for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. Beth DeRicco, director of higher education outreach for Caron Treatment Centers, who has extensive experience developing policies and programs that address dangerous drinking and drug use on campuses and in our broader communities. Among more than 29,000 US students who responded to a national, anonymous survey, 20 percent reported that they had never drunk alcohol, and 16 percent said they had drunk alcohol but not in the past 30 days (National College Health Assessment, spring 2016).
Campus recovery programs help students succeed and graduate
Early research suggests that these programs can help students succeed academically and graduate from college. A 2014 study involving 29 collegiate recovery communities found that their students had higher GPAs and graduation rates than the general student populations at the same colleges (Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions).
That success reflects the determination of these students to move forward, says Joan Masters, senior coordinator at Partners in Prevention, a consortium addressing substance abuse on Missouri campuses. “Students in recovery take every choice seriously and day-by-day. Going back into higher education is a commitment, their second chance.” The relapse rates of students in these programs appears to be well below those of adults accessing community-based recovery services, according to the same 2014 study.
Peer support is key to recovery
Recovery supports work better when they are designed to meet the needs associated with specific life stages and environments, research shows (SAMHSA, 2009). “For most students in recovery, collegiate recovery programs provide the social support and peer network critical to maintaining recovery,” says Dr. DeRicco.
The key components of campus programs may be peer-based groups, 12-step recovery supports, and academic supports, according to a 2011 study in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. College administrations are well positioned to facilitate these.
Part of the solution is as simple as physical infrastructure. “Universities can help facilitate students getting together and supporting themselves and each other; having dedicated space makes that easier,” says Ruyak. Early class registration means students don’t have to choose between accessing recovery supports and meeting their academic requirements, he says. “Students need to put their recovery first. If you don’t, it’s hard to be the best student you can be.”
What does campus recovery programming look like?
Collegiate recovery communities vary widely, both in the types of services available and in what they require of the students who access them. “There are many models of different types,” says Masters. “In Missouri, we allow each college to pick what works for them while maintaining fidelity to various tenets of recovery.”
Campus recovery programs typically include some (but not necessarily all) of the following elements:
- Meetings on campus; meetings typically emphasize peer support. These can take various formats, such as the 12-step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, the coping strategies emphasized in SMART Recovery, or the Christian fellowship of Celebrate Recovery (see Find out more today).
- Sober or drug-free housing, such as a residential building or dorm restricted to students who don’t use
- Academic support, such as priority registration to help students organize their class schedule around their recovery programming
- Individual or group counseling to address recovery-related issues, such as relapse prevention and coping strategies
- Sober leisure activities and social events
- Dedicated staff with expertise in recovery
- Financial support, such as scholarship and grant opportunities
- Classes dedicated to addiction recovery
Programs may specify a particular recovery approach or allow students to choose what works for them. For example, at Oregon State University, “We want students to choose their path of recovery. We don’t define what that looks like as long as it is positive for the community and they are not using,” says Ruyak.
The average age of students in college recovery programs is 26, according to the Journal of American College Health (2016)—a number that hints at the nontraditional routes of many students in recovery (as explained below). “In our program, they’re from age 19 into their 40s, ranging from people who are literally just getting sober to people with nine years of sobriety,” says Sarah Nerad, program manager of the collegiate recovery community at The Ohio State University.
The campus recovery population may include:
- Students who got sober or stopped using in high school; some take a gap year before going to college
- Students who took time out of college in order to access alcohol and/or drug treatment, and returned to college once their recovery was on track
- Students who did not go to college after graduating from high school, but instead worked, had children, became sober, and returned to education in their 30s, 40s, or 50s
- Students who got sober in college (e.g., accessing outpatient alcohol and/or drug treatment)
Many recovery communities are open to others, including:
- Students who are not in recovery but are sober and/or don’t use drugs; e.g., because of their religious beliefs or a family history of addiction
- Students in recovery who are sober and do not need major supports
- Students who are taking a break from drinking or substance use as a lifestyle choice or who are considering getting sober
- Students who are not sober but are allies to their sober peers
If you’re already in college, ask about recovery services at your disability services office, counseling center, or student health center. If you’re not in school or are considering a transfer, check college websites and/or contact their student health centers. The membership requirements for recovery programs are variable. “There are many campus programs and policies that support substance-free living, and students in recovery benefit from these as does the general population of students,” says Dr. DeRicco. “If you have taken time out for substance use treatment and are looking to return to school, factors that improve your chance of success include the presence of a campus recovery program, psychoeducational programming (e.g., handling stress and triggers), and access to group meetings.”
Some elements of programming (e.g., sober housing and early class registration) may be restricted to students who meet specific membership requirements. Other elements (e.g., sober meeting space and social events) may be open to students who are not members of the recovery program but can benefit from those resources and/or support students in recovery.
To be admitted to recovery programming, staff may consider:
- Your treatment history
- Your duration of abstinence/sobriety before you start the program
- Your enrollment status (e.g., a minimum number of credit hours)
The program may require:
- Your regular participation in a specified program (e.g., 12-step meetings) or a program of your choice that supports recovery
- A signed sobriety contract (sobriety may be defined in various ways)
- Your agreement to drug testing
- Costs or fees for some services
Supportive peers are highly valuable to recovery. If you are new to recovery and want to start a group on campus, reach out to other students who have more experience. “When you have a year or two of recovery under your belt, a leadership role comes more naturally,” says Nerad.
- Contact your college administrators: Start with health educators, the disability services office, the counseling center, and the dean of student life or residence life. “Students in recovery [may be] an anonymous population. Help your college know that this community exists.” says Masters.
- Reach out to likely allies: Talk with faculty and students in departments and programs that prioritize community service and can help you strategize and organize (e.g., social work, psychology, sociology, and counseling). Be sure to involve your disability services staff on campus; they are well positioned to support students in recovery.
- Organize a Meet & Greet: When you have gathered a core group of students and allies, help other students connect with their peers in recovery. Talk with your staff and faculty allies about what space will work for a meeting and how to offer free pizza. Promote the event around campus. Invite student government representatives to show their support.
- Locate space for meetings and support groups: Liaise with administrators, health educators, and counseling staff about access to meeting space and other resources, such as free photocopying and coffee.
- Form a student organization: Reach out to your student government to learn the process and protocol.
- Look for community-based allies: Check out meetings run by AA, NA, or other organizations including local rehab centers. “From doing a bit of networking in that community you will be able to find other local resources to help you start programs on campus,” says a fourth-year student at Ashford University (online).
What if starting a campus-based group is not an option?
This may be an issue on small campuses where there are not enough students in recovery to maintain an ongoing group. “You can find a lot of the same benefits in traditional models of recovery. There are 12-step meetings and counseling opportunities everywhere, and those can work as a starting point to build the fellowship that comes out of a campus org,” says a fourth-year undergraduate member of a campus recovery program at a midwestern university.
It’s not necessarily easy to know if your own alcohol and/or drug use has become problematic. If alcohol and/or drugs are negatively affecting your life, or you’re having trouble moderating your use, it’s important to seek help earlier rather than later. “People in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s say, ‘I wish I’d got sober in college’,” says Nerad. Under diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), addiction or dependency (termed substance use disorder), can be mild, moderate, severe, or in remission.
Six percent of the US student population meets the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependency, according to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (2002). For some students, risk-taking is a developmental stage that they outgrow. Others may be self-medicating in response to an underlying emotional and/or physical health issue that isn’t being addressed in healthier ways.
When students seek help managing their alcohol or drug use, it’s usually in response to an alarming experience. “They woke up one day and realized their situation was not good; they got black-out drunk, they need help,” says Nerad. “They go to the student health center, counseling center, or health educator. Some students look up AA.” Many colleges have online screening tools for identifying risky substance use and assessing the need for further support, and brief interventions that can help students manage their use and avoid further negative consequences.
These questions can help you figure out if your drinking or drug use is problematic:
- When you start drinking and/or using, are you able to stop before you start to experience negative consequences?
- Are you able to set rules for your drinking or use and comply with them? For example: using only marijuana, not other drugs; drinking only on weekends.
- Is your drinking or drug use having a negative impact on your life? For example: declining grades; friends losing patience with you; legal or disciplinary consequences; spending more money than you can afford on alcohol or drugs; life starting to feel unmanageable.
Treatment for alcohol and/or drug misuse can take a variety of forms
“Depending on the level of care needed, a young person may or may not need to take a medical leave from campus,” says Dr. DeRicco. She outlines these treatment options:
- Depending on the campus location, off-campus services in conjunction with on-campus supports may be sufficient. When it is clinically appropriate, combining academics with treatment, and/or having academic goals imbedded in a treatment plan, can provide important motivation for success.
- For many, medically assisted treatment is critical. Inpatient, outpatient, or residential treatment may be indicated and may require time out from academic life.
- A few campuses (e.g., Augsburg College, Minnesota, and Texas Tech University) are associated with therapeutic treatment communities. Far more commonly, a collegiate recovery program or collegiate recovery community supports students before or after treatment.
How to find recovery tools, resources, and community
Beth DeRicco, PhD, director, higher education outreach, Caron Treatment Centers, Pennsylvania.
Joan Masters, MEd, senior coordinator, Partners in Prevention, University of Missouri Wellness Resource Center; regional consultant, The BACCHUS Network, NASPA.
Sarah Nerad, MPA; program manager, Collegiate Recovery Community; director of recovery, Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery, Office of Student Life, Ohio State University.
Ann Quinn-Zobeck, PhD, former senior director of initiatives and training, The BACCHUS Network, NASPA.
John Ruyak, MPH, alcohol, drug, and recovery specialist, Oregon State University.
Davis Smith, MD, staff physician, University of Connecticut Student Health Center; medical director, Student Health 101.
American College Health Association. (2016, Spring). American College Health Association—National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) reference group data report. Retrieved from https://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/NCHA-II%20SPRING%202016%20US%20REFERENCE%20GROUP%20DATA%20REPORT.pdf
Association of Recovery in Higher Education. (2016). The collegiate recovery movement: A history. Retrieved from https://collegiaterecovery.org/the-collegiate-recovery-movement-a-history/
Borsari, B., & Carey, K. B. (2006). How the quality of peer relationships influences college alcohol use. Drug and Alcohol Review, 25(4), 361–370.
Bugbee, B. A., Caldeira, K. M., Soong, A. M., Vincent, K. B., et al. (2016, August.) Collegiate recovery programs: A win-win proposition for students and colleges.
University of Maryland School of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.cls.umd.edu/docs/CRP.pdf
Clapp, J. D. (2014, February 28). [Review of the book Substance Abuse Recovery in College: Community Supported Abstinence, by H. H. Cleveland, K. S. Harris, & R. Wiebe (Eds)]. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 14(1), 113–114.
Harrington, C. H., Harris, K. S., Baker, A. K., Herbert, R., et al. (2007). Characteristics of a collegiate recovery community: Maintaining recovery in an abstinence-hostile environment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33(1), 13–23.
Harrington, C. H., Harris, K. S., & Wiebe, R.P. eds. (2010). Substance abuse recovery in college: Community supported abstinence. Advancing responsible adolescent development. New York: Springer, 2010.
Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., et al. (2015). National survey results on drug use 1975–2015: College students and adults ages 19–55. Monitoring the Future/National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-vol2_2015.pdf
Kilmer, J. R., & Logan, D. E. (2012). Applying harm reduction strategies on college campuses. In C. Correia, J. Murphy, and N. Barnett (Eds.) College student alcohol abuse: A guide to assessment, intervention, and prevention. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Knight, J. R., Wechsler, H., Kuo, M., Seibring, M., et al. (2002). Alcohol abuse and dependence among US college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 63(3), 263.
Laitman, L., Kachur-Karavites, B., & Stewart, L. P. (2014). Building, engaging, and sustaining a continuum of care from harm reduction to recovery support: The Rutgers Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions , 14(1), 64–83.
Laudet, A., Harris, K., Kimball, T., Winters, K. C. et al. (2016). In college and in recovery: Reasons for joining a collegiate recovery program. Journal of American College Health, 64(3), 238–246.
Laudet, A., Harris, K., Kimball, T., Winters, K. C., et al. (2014). Recovery community programs: What do we know and what do we need to know? Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 14(1), 84–100.
Laudet, A. B., Harris, K., Kimball, T., Winters, K. C., et al. (2015). Characteristics of students participating in collegiate recovery programs: A national survey. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 51, 38–46.
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Quinn-Zobeck, A. (2007). Screening and brief intervention tool kit for college and university campuses. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration/BACCHUS Network.
Retrieved from https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/sbirt/NHTSA_SBIRT_for_Colleges_and_Universities.pdf
Smock, S. A., Baker, A., Harris, K. S., & D’Sauza, C. (2011). The role of social support in collegiate recovery communities: A review of the literature. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 29(1), 35–44.
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Transforming Youth Recovery. (2017). Areas of focus. Retrieved from https://www.transformingyouthrecovery.org/focus
White, W., & Finch, A. (2006). The recovery school movement: Its history and future. Counselor, 7(2), 54–57.
Having the drink without the downside
Do you choose to drink alcohol? If so, chances are you’re interested in figuring out how to get alcohol’s buzz (feeling chatty, relaxed, and socially connected) while avoiding its negative effects (feeling tired, sick, embarrassed, and all set to fail Monday’s test).
You may have noticed that once you’ve passed the euphoric stage of drinking, and started to slump, consuming more alcohol does not bring back the buzz. This is always the case (science has figured out why, but that’s another story).
This guide is about how to get the effects of alcohol that you want without ending up with its baggage too. A key skill is knowing how to take care of yourself while still being part of the party. Here, we outline seven realistic ways to do this.
Note: Our emphasis is on realistic. Most of you are using some of these strategies already, a large national survey shows. To find out how to make this easier, while expanding your options for having fun and staying in control, keep reading. These strategies are especially important when you’re new to college, new to drinking, or both. (The minimum legal age for consuming alcohol in the US is 21.)
First things first: Be confident in your choice to drink mindfully
Alcohol seems (and is) part of the social culture on many campuses. But over and over, studies show that students perceive alcohol use among their peers to be far more common and frequent than it really is.Here’s what undergrads think their peers are drinking, compared to how much undergrads report they are actually drinking:Source: National College Health Assessment, Fall 2015; 19,800 respondents, anonymous and randomized
7 ways to get what you want from alcohol:
1 Make a plan in advance
Planning what you’ll drink through the evening is key to staying in control. Consider:
- What you will drink
- How many alcoholic drinks you will have
- How you will pace those drinks through the event
- Whether or not you will have access to the drink of your choice
To figure out what works for you, see Know what you can drink—at what pace later in this slideshow.
Part of planning is anticipating whether you will have control over your own alcohol choices. For example, if jungle juice or mystery punch is all that’s available, the healthiest choice is not to drink or to bring your own.
2 Set your limits up front
Let your friends know that you’re looking forward to hanging out with them and that you’re choosing to not overdo it. Can’t afford a late penalty for your assignment or a missed team practice? Your friends will get it.
3 Tag team with a friend
You’re not the only one who wants to be in control when you go out. Tag team with a friend, help each other out, and celebrate the people who step in and let you know when you’ve had enough.
4 Alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks
We feel more comfortable when we have a cup in our hand, whether or not that cup contains alcohol, studies show.
- If you usually have eight alcoholic drinks and you want to cut that to four, you can still have eight drinks: alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
- No one has to know what is in your cup or can: Refilling your beer can with water or juice keeps others from worrying that you haven’t had enough to drink or aren’t having fun.
- Bonus: Add ice to your drinks—studies show you’ll drink more slowly (and the alcohol will be diluted).
- Caution: Carbonated drinks may be best avoided when you’re drinking alcohol; carbonation appears to speed up the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream, according to researchers. Instead, go for water (add fruit for flavoring), juice, or a sports drink.
Good to know: Studies of the placebo effects related to alcohol show that the chatty, witty persona we associate with drinking is more about our expectations of alcohol than the alcohol itself. In other words, we can be that person without alcohol.
5 Delay the next drink
You can delay your next drink without seeming to reject the person who’s offering it or distancing yourself from the social scene.
When someone offers to get you a drink, show appreciation, and give them a reason to hold off.
Bonus: This sets you up to get your own drink directly from the bartender—the safest source of alcohol. Here’s why:
- You’ll know what you’re getting. This is very different from jungle juice or mystery punch, when you have no way of knowing how concentrated the alcohol is. (If you expect punch to be the only alcohol served at a party, bring your own drinks.)
- You’ll more easily stick to your plan. Bartenders know what a standard serving size looks like—and can also recognize a person who shouldn’t drink any more.
- You’ll reduce the risk of your drink being spiked. “Date-rape drugs” are tasteless, odorless, colorless, and rapidly dissolving.
6 Show that you’re having a good time
The person offering you a drink wants you to have a good time and include you in the fun. Let them see that you’re enjoying yourself.
7 Be thoughtful about drinking games
Drinking games vary in their safety and risk. If you participate, choose wisely.
Be cautious about matching your alcohol intake with someone else’s. When participating in drinking games, we often consume more than we had anticipated, and we drink more quickly than usual. This hikes up the risk of illness, impairment, and regret.Consider adapting drinking games in these ways:
- Take a sip, not a shot
- Play all or some rounds with nonalcoholic beverages
- Take breaks
Know what you can drink—at what pace
Those strategies are helpful in social and professional situations involving alcohol. Being mindful about your alcohol use also means knowing what you typically drink and how your body and mind respond to it. Here’s how to figure that out:
A Ask yourself three questions:
- What do I drink? The amount of alcohol you consume depends partly on what you’re drinking. Alcoholic beverages vary enormously in their alcohol content.
- What’s my usual serving size? The amount of alcohol you consume also depends on the shape and size of your glass or cup. A standard serving size is unlikely to be whatever your friend just ladled into that red solo cup.
- How long will I be out for? Think about pacing your drinking. If you’ll be out for four hours and you plan to have three alcoholic drinks, you may decide to have one alcoholic drink per hour for the first three hours. Pregaming—drinking before you go out—means you hit “peak buzz” earlier, and your mood declines earlier too.
B Consult a BAC calculator or chart:
This helps you estimate the amount of drink servings you can consume, and how you should pace them, before your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reaches “peak buzz”. For many people, “peak buzz” is around 0.06 percent BAC. For some, it’s between 0.04 and 0.06.
Are you already doing this when you drink?
Almost all college students (98 percent) who responded to a national survey reported that they routinely took one or more smart measures when socializing with alcohol in the past 12 months.
|“Most of the time” or “always”|
|Alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic beverages||35 percent|
|Avoid drinking games||37 percent|
|Choose not to drink alcohol||26 percent|
|Decide in advance not to exceed a set number of drinks||43 percent|
|Eat before and/or during drinking||80 percent|
|Have a friend let you know when you have had enough||44 percent|
|Keep track of how many drinks being consumed||68 percent|
|Pace drinks to one or fewer an hour||34 percent|
|Stay with the same friends the entire time drinking||88 percent|
|Stick with only one kind of alcohol when drinking||52 percent|
|Use a designated driver||89 percent|
Source: National College Health Assessment, Fall 2015; 19,800 respondents, anonymous and randomized
Effective tools and tips for having fun and staying in control
Calculators for alcohol content, calories, cost, etc.: NIAAA
Jason Kilmer, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science, University of Washington; assistant director of health and wellness for alcohol and other drug education, Division of Student Life, University of Washington.
Joan Masters, MEd, senior coordinator, Partners in Prevention, University of Missouri Wellness Resource Center; area consultant, The BACCHUS Network.
Ann Quinn-Zobeck, PhD, former senior director of initiatives and training, The BACCHUS Network.
Ryan Travia, MEd, associate dean of students for wellness, Babson College, Massachusetts; founding director, Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Services (AODS), Harvard University.
American College Health Association. American College Health
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