Is There a Right Way to Drink? A Healthy Perspective on College Drinking

By Adrienne Erin

Congratulations! You’ve finished high school. Now it’s time to head off to college. Isn’t it great to feel free? No parents and no boring home life. You’ll get to make new friends and have new experiences. And best of all, you’ll get to go to parties. What’s not to love?

It’s a given that you’re probably going to drink at least once in college. Chances are you’ve heard the pep talk about alcohol multiple times already, so you know what’s coming. But the point is: Sure, you can have fun, but it’s important to remember you’re in college to learn. Part of that learning is to gain a healthy perspective on drinking.

There’s a wrong and right way to drink. Which one will you choose?

The Wrong Way to Drink

This shouldn’t really need explanation, but people still abuse alcohol every day. Those who don’t drink responsibly can exhibit reckless behavior such as:

  • pressuring others to drink
  • binge drinking
  • drinking at a very fast pace
  • messing with other people’s drinks
  • driving drunk

If you think you see someone drinking irresponsibly, do your best to stay away from them. Find some new people to hang out with, or leave the party.

The Right Way to Drink

If you’re underage, it’s obviously wrong to drink in the first place. But if you do choose to drink at a party, keep these tips in mind:

Make a plan for how you will get home.

This should be the first thing you think about when preparing for a night out. Know how you’re getting home well before the party.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can have a designated driver within your friend group. If there’s public transportation in your area, like buses or trains, use them. NEVER get into a car with anyone who has had too much to drink, and NEVER drive drunk – even if you’re just tipsy. You’ll pay for the consequences of those poor decisions for the rest of your life.

Pace yourself.

It takes a little while for the effect of alcohol to kick in. You might feel completely fine right after taking a shot, but remember that you’ll start to feel the effect a few minutes after.

Make sure to space out your drinking. Having a non-alcoholic drink in between, such as soda or water, helps keep you from going too fast. Aim to keep a one-to-one ratio with one glass of water for each glass of alcohol. For each alcohol beverage you have, drink a non-alcoholic beverage.

Keep in mind that safe, responsible drinking means no more than one drink in an hour.

For reference, one drink equals one 1.5 oz. shot of 40% alcohol, one 5 oz. glass of wine or one 12 oz. beer per hour.

Drink with people you know.

It’s a wise choice to stick with your friends while drinking. If you go alone, you could get into trouble and have no one to look out for you. Avoid drinking with people you don’t know that well or don’t trust. These people could potentially be dangerous, or they might run off somewhere else without telling you.

It’s also important to stay with friends who drink in moderation. Stay away from people who oppose not drinking as much, or encourage binge drinking.

Keep an eye on your drink too, especially if you’re with people you don’t know well. They might seem friendly, but they could sneak date rape drugs or something else dangerous into your drink.

Eat something before or during drinking.

If you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll feel the effects of alcohol quicker. You might also feel sicker. Eating before you go out will help you stay under your drinking limit.

Be sure to eat a meal rich in proteins and carbs. These help to absorb the alcohol.

Know your limits, and measures.

You are the most important person at the party! Your friends may keep a close watch over you, but you also have to take care of yourself. Part of this is knowing your limits. Listen to your body – it won’t take much to figure out how much is enough.

If it’s your first time out, drink at a steady pace to determine your alcohol tolerance. It also helps to drink with friends or people you know well so that you won’t get socially anxious and drink more than you can handle.

You can quantify your tolerance, as well. For example, it could be “three beers per night,” or “two glasses of wine in four hours.”

If you want a fun, harmless way to help you determine what an effect certain amounts of drinking could have on your body type, try this choose your own adventure game.

Know how to turn down a drink.

Drinking is supposed to be a social activity, not a place to show off how much you can stomach. There’s no need to keep up or even accept a drink in the first place.

When you don’t want to drink, decline with a polite excuse. A simple “No, thank you,” should do the trick, but if needed, you can add more. Try things like “I don’t drink,” “I have to drive home,” “I’m the designated driver,” or “I’m pacing myself.”

Choosing Not to Drink is Totally Okay

If you don’t like drinking to begin with, it doesn’t make you uncool in the slightest. You should applaud yourself for steering clear of a night that could negatively impact your health or your life. In fact, there are tons of other alternatives to a night of partying.

You can always stay in and have a fun-filled night with your friends. Watch movies, play video or board games or see what’s going on around campus. Or, check out this list.

College campuses usually have great alternatives to parties on weekends. These can include things like dances, paint parties, movies, social gatherings, speed dating or athletic intramural events.

Whichever you choose, know that there’s a right and wrong way to drink. When you go out, plan ahead of time and be alert. You’ll thank yourself after a long night of partying – and if you do things right, maybe you won’t feel so groggy the morning after, either.

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