“Responsible” Drinking: What it Really Means


To avoid being “that person” at a party and help keep everyone safe, use strategies to limit or pace your drinking, as well as ones to prevent driving after having consumed too much alcohol. 

  • Eat before or during drinking. Having food in your stomach helps slow the absorption of alcohol through the stomach lining. Eating can also help you avoid a hangover.
  • Decide on a set number of drinks ahead of time and stick to it. The recommended limits are based on gender identity – which we don’t love but it’s what we have: for men, drink less than 4 servings of alcohol in a day and no more than 14 in a week. For women, drink less than 3 servings of alcohol per day and no more than 7 drinks in a week. Limits above are based on serving sizes –
    • 1.5 ounces of liquor (such as whisky, rum, or tequila) – a shot glass worth.
    • 5 ounces of wine – about half of a typical wine glass.
    • 12 ounces of beer – a can.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Some people say they feel weird if they don’t have a drink in their hand at a party or at the bar. If that’s the case for you, try alternating between alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks. Soda, juice, seltzer, or non-alcoholic beers are good alternate options that also happen to look like alcohol.
  • Dilute your drink. If you’re drinking liquor, use more mixer or add extra ice. Not only will you consume less alcohol, your drink may also taste better.
  • Pace yourself. Drinking more slowly can also help you drink less and maintain a healthier buzz for a longer duration.
  • Enlist a buddy to help you know how much you’ve had and when to stop. If you think you’ll have trouble managing your drinking on your own, seek support from a friend. You can ask them to tell you to stop after a specific number of drinks or after a certain time of night. Just make sure it’s a friend who will remain sober enough to pay attention.
  • Avoid drinking games and shots. Drinking games can be a way to drink a lot in a short period of time, often more than you first intended. Shots can feel deceptive because they’re generally very high in alcohol content, even though they are a small amount of liquid.
  • Spend time with friends who consume less. Being around heavy drinkers normalizes heavy drinking. Consider participating in some social situations that involve little or no drinking or attending social events with a crew that tends to drink less.

Not drinking and driving during the pandemic is especially difficult since taking cabs, rideshares or public transit isn’t recommended. Here are some other ideas that people have used successfully to avoid driving while impaired that you could use for yourself or a friend:

  • Drink somewhere that you don’t need to drive. Drinking at home or somewhere nearby means you can get to your bed after drinking without having to worry about driving.
  • Appoint a sober designated driver. If you’re going out with a group, choose a designated driver or someone who is sober for the night. Rotate different friends as the sober driver on different nights.
  • Decide on alternate sleeping arrangements ahead of time. If driving home isn’t an option, can you ask around to see if you can crash with a friend who lives nearby? 
  • Decide to stop drinking two hours before you leave an event. For example, if you think you’ll want to leave an event at around two a.m., stop drinking at midnight. This won’t guarantee that you’re sober enough to drive by two a.m., but it may result in you becoming sober enough to decide not to drive. It’s also good hangover prevention to switch to hydrating fluids for a couple of hours before you go to sleep after a night of heavy drinking. Two hours of drinking water is likely to make the morning less painful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with being able to consume alcohol in a safe manner as a college student, check out Student Wellness’ health coaching and alcohol prevention services.

Article based on Go Ask Alice! response to “How can I be responsible while drinking?”

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