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Alcohol Education: FAQs


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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are frequently asked questions about alcohol and alcohol use.

Safe Drinking

What are some strategies that can be used to moderate one's drinking?

There are numerous strategies to moderate drinking. Try to:

  • decide what you do not like or want to avoid when drinking and set specific drinking limits based on the type of drink and its alcohol content
    • use e-CHUG to understand your current habits and safe drinking limits
  • slow down your pace of drinking
  • avoid drinking games
  • identify plausible reasons not to drink beyond a certain point and find alternative activities that do not include drinking
    • be prepared to refuse drinks
  • count the number of standard drinks you consume
    • observe your behavior; most people are surprised by what they learn when they actually count how many drinks they have

Source: Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A Harm Reducation Approach by Linda A. Dimeff, John S. Baer, Daniel R. Kivlahan, and G. Alan Marlatt. Copyright 1999 by The Guilford Press.

What is a safe level of drinking?

Women who drink more than 3 drinks per occasion and men who drink more than 4 drinks per occasion are at high-risk for short-term alcohol-related problems such as experiencing a hangover, getting nauseous or vomiting, doing something they later regret, missing class, getting into an argument or fight, being hurt or injured, damaging property, deciding to drive under the influence, getting in trouble with the authorities, and being taken advantage of sexually.

Women who drink more than 7 drinks per week and men who drink more than 14 drinks per week are at high-risk of developing long-term alcohol-related problems, including dependence. Up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people causes few, if any, problems for most adults. (One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor.) Certain people should not drink at all, however. They include: women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, people who plan to drive or engage in other activities that require alertness and skill, people taking over-the-counter or prescription medicines, people with medical conditions made worse by drinking, recovering alcoholics, and people younger than 21.

(Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)

Why should I wait until I'm 21 to drink?

The risks associated with consuming alcohol are higher for people under 21. The earlier in life a person starts drinking, the more likely it is that they will experience short- or long-term alcohol-related problems. People who start drinking in their teens are more likely to become dependent on alcohol than people who begin drinking later in life. Heavy drinking does more damage to the brains of people in their teens and very early twenties than it does to the brains of older individuals. People under 21 who drink are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than people over 21 who drink. And, of course, people under 21 can face legal charges for possessing or consuming alcohol.

Alcohol Effects

How can I know what my blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is when drinking?


Can a problem drinker simply cut down?

It depends. If that person has alcoholism, the answer is no. Alcoholics who try to cut down on drinking rarely succeed. Abstaining is usually the best course for recovery for alcoholics. People who have experienced problems as a result of their drinking, but are not dependent on alcohol, may be able to reduce or eliminate problems by limiting their drinking. If a person finds they can’t stay within the limits they set for themselves, it may be a sign that they need to stop drinking.

(Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)

Do you have to be an alcoholic to experience problems?

No. Alcoholism is only one type of alcohol-related problem. Alcohol abuse can be just as harmful. A person can abuse alcohol without being an alcoholic. Someone who abuses alcohol drinks too much and/or too often and experiences problems as a result of drinking. Problems linked to alcohol abuse include not being able to meet work, school, or family responsibilities, alcohol-related arrests and injuries, and social or interpersonal difficulties.

(Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)

Does having a tolerance make me a safer drinker?

No. Research tells us that a person with a tolerance may feel less impaired at a given BAC, but they are not actually less impaired. For example, people who report a high tolerance to alcohol perform no better than individuals with a low tolerance to alcohol on tests of motor functioning at given BAC level. In addition, although a person with a high tolerance does not feel as many effects at a given BAC, the same amount of alcohol is reaching their organs and doing damage to their body. Finally, increasing tolerance can put people at risk for future alcohol dependence.

Does alcohol affect women differently?

Women will be more impaired than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol. This is true even when differences in body weight are taken into account. There are several reasons for this. Women’s bodies have less water than men’s. Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol becomes more highly concentrated in a woman’s body than in a man’s body. Women also have less of an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, that breaks down alcohol in the stomach. Because of this, when a woman consumes alcohol, less is broken down in the stomach and more is absorbed intact into the bloodstream. In addition, chronic alcohol abuse takes a heavier physical toll on women than on men. Alcohol dependence and related medical problems such as brain, heart, and liver damage progress more rapidly in women than in men.

(Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)

Is alcohol good for your heart?

Studies have shown that moderate drinkers – women who have one or fewer drinks per day and men who have two or fewer drinks per day – are less likely to die from heart disease than both people who do not drink any alcohol or people who drink more. Research, however, has not shown that young adults gain any health benefits from drinking alcohol. If you are a non-drinker, you should not start drinking solely to benefit your heart, as the risks of consuming alcohol may outweigh the benefits. You can guard against heart disease by exercising regularly and eating foods low in fat.

How can a person get help for an alcohol-related problem?

Any student at EIU can participate in the Motivational Interviewing program at the HERC to get a free and confidential assessment and receive personal feedback on their drinking. For information, please contact (217) 581-7786.

Other resources:


(Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)