There probably isn't a college student in the United States who hasn't personally experienced an alcohol-related problem or known someone who has.
You know - impairment-related problems like vomiting, drunk driving arrests and/or crashes, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and maybe even longer-term difficulties such as liver damage and alcoholism.
Because of all the problems that alcohol abuse can cause, it's no wonder that many college students are making the choice to drink responsibly.
What Is "Low-Risk Drinking?"
How do you "know when to say when?" What does "drink in moderation" mean? These phrases are emotionally appealing but ambiguous. They can mean almost anything you want them to mean, from total abstinence to not knocking over a lamp when you return home after hoisting a few.
If you choose to drink, here's what the experts suggest:
Research shows that if you exceed these recommendations, you increase the risk of an immediate alcohol-related problem, a longer-term health-related problem, or both. And, naturally, the more you exceed the guidelines, the more you increase your risk.
- No more than one drink an hour.
- No more than two drinks per day for men, one per day for women. (Because alcohol affects women differently than men, alcohol use recommendations are lower for women.)
- No drinking alcohol more than four days per week.
And let's face it. We all know that alcohol has anesthetic, cell-damaging and psychoactive qualities, and that it's addictive - so it's important to understand that alcohol is in no way a risk-free activity.
Then what is "low-risk drinking"? Maybe the best way to answer that question is this: responsible drinking means taking steps to reduce your risk for experiencing an alcohol-related problem. It's really not hard to do; it only requires a little common sense.
First of all, consider these questions:
Answering these questions will help you make the choice to drink or not to drink. There are, however, other situations where the only option is abstinence.
- What is your reaction to alcohol? When you drink do you often lose control or do something stupid? Do you sometimes pass out or get into arguments or fights? If so, maybe you should take a look - a close look - at your drinking habits.
- Does anyone in your family have a history of alcohol-related problems? Here's another good reason to ease up or quit, because research shows that difficulty with alcohol seems to run in families.
- What situation are you in? In other words, say you have a final early tomorrow morning and need to be at the top of your game. Or maybe you're going to meet the parents of that special someone for the first time, or you know you'll be doing some driving later in the day. Things like that. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize you should lay off the sauce.
Research shows that, under certain circumstances, alcohol use can be dangerous. How do you know what those circumstances are? Remembering the letters in the word "OBSERVE" will remind you how to greatly reduce your risk of having an alcohol-related problem by simply not drinking.
ZERO alcohol is the best choice if you are:
If you fall into any of the above categories, ZERO alcohol is the best choice for you. By OBSERVEing the times to abstain from drinking, your risk of having alcohol-related problems will be significantly lessened.
- On certain medications or have certain illnesses (check with your doctor). Mixing medicines with booze may give you a buzz you didn't bargain for.
- Behind the wheel, or engaged in tasks requiring full mental or physical functioning. Drinking and driving is one of the most dangerous things anyone can do. But you already knew that.
- Stressed out or tired. Drinking doesn't relieve stress, it only complicates things further. And it could lead to depression. Talk to a friend instead, or do some relaxation exercises, or maybe go shopping.
- Either the son, daughter or sibling of someone with alcoholism. As we mentioned earlier, alcohol problems are often a family affair.
- Recovering from alcoholism or drug dependency. If you've worked hard to get yourself off alcohol or drugs, the last thing you want is to fall off the wagon. Stay clean.
- Violating laws, policies or personal values. If drinking may mean legal trouble or expulsion from school, don't do it. Not worth it.
- Expecting, nursing or considering pregnancy. Remember, now you're abstaining for two.