Strategies for No-Risk & Low-Risk Drinking
Abstinence (not drinking) is the safest alternative and the only legal one if you are under 21 years of age. Some students have reported other factors that influence their decision to abstain: having a physical or mental health condition that is worsened by alcohol use; taking a medication that interacts with alcohol and causes negative reactions; having a family history of alcohol addiction; having experienced one or more personal tragedy associated with their drinking or the drinking of others. Some students also report that their choice to abstain is tied to their desire for academic and/or athletic success and attaining career objectives. For them, drinking while in college is not compatible with these goals. At the same time, these students do not report feeling socially isolated.
Heavy drinking, competitive drinking and drinking to get drunk are risky and should always be avoided. If you chose to drink, consider these strategies to reduce the likelihood of risk and harm to yourself and others.
Set a drinking limit on each occasion that you choose to drink.
Your limit should be tied to a BAC of 0.05% or less. At this level most non-tolerant drinkers will experience some pleasurable effects, but not be in danger from serious impairments. This is often referred to as the “safe zone.” Even at this level, however, there will be some minor impairment in reasoning, judgment and coordination. For this reason, do not drive or engage in other tasks that require clear-thinking and a quick response. In New York state, the legal sanction for driving while ability impaired (DWAI) is associated with a BAC of 0.05% to 0.07%.
Keep track of the number of “standard drinks” that you consume.
Such self-monitoring heightens your awareness of the association between your intake and the effects associated with the amount that you drink.
Pace your drinking and space your drinks.
Gulping drinks, playing drinking games and “pre-partying” or “pre-gaming” tend to disrupt your ability to pace your drinking, make it difficult to keep track of how much you are drinking and will lead to a rapid rise in BAC to harmful or dangerous levels. In spacing your drinking, be aware that, for most people, the body eliminates alcohol (breaks it down) at a fairly constant rate of one standard drink per hour. Therefore, consumption at a rate of one standard drink per hour will maintain ones BAC. Even this varies among individuals and is one more reason to know your limits in order to stay in the safe zone.
Eat just before or while you drink.
Having food in your stomach slows down the absorption of alcohol and your BAC will not rise as rapidly. However, you will reach peak levels, just not as fast.
Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
There are two advantages to this strategy. First, it will take more time to absorb the drinks that you have consumed and this will keep BAC down. Second, by drinking fluids, especially water, you will reduce dehydration. Remember, alcohol is a diuretic and, as such, depletes the body of water.
Don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks (Red Bull, Amp, Rockstar, Monster, Venom, Adrenalin Rush, etc.) and avoid alcoholic beverages that are combined with energy drinks (Sparks, Tilt, Joose, Four Loko, etc.).
The appeal for mixing alcohol with energy drinks is the promise of a sustained rush or high that would allow you to drink longer and not get sleepy. In reality, the stimulant effects of the caffeine in these drinks masks the sedative effect of the alcohol. You will have the false sense of energy as your BAC is rising. In such a condition you may engage in risky behaviors without comprehending the dangers. Also, the caffeine in these drinks is a diuretic and only compounds the dehydration caused by alcohol. And finally, high levels of caffeine can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing palpitations. Alcohol, especially taken in high doses, can also cause heart rhythm problems. The combination can be dangerous and may not be worth the risk.
Don’t let others pour your drink at a party or leave your drink unattended.
There is the obvious reason that someone intending to take advantage of you may alter your drink by adding more alcohol or another drug to it. But even an innocent prank by a friend who is drinking with you, and is under the influence of alcohol, may pose a threat to your safety. So, the only way to know for sure what you are drinking is to make it your self and keep it with you at all times.
Experiment with drinking less, refusing drinks or periodically not drinking.
You may find that you have as much fun, or more, by drinking less or not drinking at times. Being pressured into drinking more than you intended happens in social settings. When your judgment is already impaired, it is easier to give in to the social pressure. If you have a plan to limit your drinks, you may need to assert yourself to keep to your plan. Drink refusal techniques always include the word “no”: No, I’ve had enough; No I’ve reached my limit; No, and please don’t ask me again. And, if you have developed a tolerance for alcohol, you can reduce the stress on your liver by not drinking for awhile, thereby achieving healthy tolerance reversal.