University Health and Counseling Services

FAQs Related to Alcohol Use

What is a standard drink?

A Standard drink contains a little over a ½ ounce (0.6) of pure alcohol

12 ounce beer (5% alcohol)

8-9 fluid ounces Malt Liquor (7% alcohol)

5 ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol)

1 ½ ounce shot of 80 proof liquor (40 % alcohol)

The body can only process .5 oz. per hour- which means it can take a little over an hour for the body to process one standard drink.


Learn More here:  THE SIPPING POINT

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge Drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 quickly.  For a typical adult male  5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female) in about 2 hours (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services- NIH)-

Binge drinking is risky and one episode of Binge Drinking can have severe consequences:

  • Impairment Problem(s) – An impairment problem can happen in one episode of drinking and can be many things. Some examples of an impairment problem include: severe injury of self or others, assaults, accidents, car crashes and many others. One night of impairment can have severe long lasting consequences.
  • Risk of Alcohol poisoning
  • Health Problems- drinking too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems that include: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heartbeat, Stroke, High blood pressure  (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
  • Tolerance is being raised. Contrary to what many people think, High Tolerance is NOT a positive quality. Each time an individual’s tolerance is raised it moves a person towards addiction, a severe substance use disorder.

 Binge Drinking & Alcohol Blackout

What are some factors that influence how quickly alcohol moves through your body?

Drinking on an empty stomach

When an individual drinks on an empty stomach, the alcohol will be absorbed into the body quicker, increasing impairment. This increases the risk for problems. To reduce risks, alcohol must be consumed when the stomach is not empty.

Body Fluid

Our bodies are primarily made up of water. A person with less body fluid will become more impaired, because they will develop a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood.

Body fluid is influenced by age, gender and body mass (size).

Body Mass refers to lean muscle mass and not body fat. The more lean muscle mass, the more body fluid.

Women generally have less body fluid than men, even if they are of the same body weight. This is why women generally become impaired quicker and the effects of the alcohol lasts longer.

Younger adolescents and older adults generally have less body fluid. For younger adolescents their bodies are generally smaller in stature and have less lean muscle mass. Older adults generally have less body fluid and when they use alcohol it will lead to a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood.

Illness or Tiredness

A person who is recovering from illness and/or is experiencing tiredness will experience greater impairment from the use of alcohol or drugs. A student who has been up studying and not getting enough sleep is susceptible to increased impairment and risk.


Many medications contain labels that warn not to consume alcohol, drive or operate machinery while taking the medication. It is important to pay attention to this warning since many medications cause impairment. Adding alcohol or other substances can increase impairment and be dangerous.

Drinking alcohol with sleeping medications, prescription drugs, antihistamines, aspirin, and other medications is risky and causes increased impairment.

How can I lower my risk of harm when using alcohol?

  • Being 21 or older
  • Know what a standard drink is
  • Thinking about whether you will drink, what you will drink before the party
  • Know your limits and stick with them
  • Eating a meal before drinking
  • Eat while drinking
  • Drinking no more than one drink per hour
  • Always know what you are drinking
  • Never leave your drink unattended
  • Alternating alcohol-free drinks throughout the  evening
  • Hydrate- drink water
  • Knowing how you will get home safely before you go out
  • Stay with your friends
  • Carry a cup of soda or water with you at all times (You already have a drink)
  • Don’t mix Alcohol and Drugs OR Alcohol and Medications
  • Avoid drinking games and shots
  • Don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks
  • Never mix alcohol/drugs and driving
  • Abstaining is the safest choice

For more information on Low Risk Choices: Rethinking Drinking

Party Smarter

Don’t miss the night and the fun – take some simple steps to “party smarter” whether you’re out at bars, clubs, restaurants, or at a friends’ home or in your home.

Many post on social media under the influence of drugs and regret it!

"Posting on social media, texting, and apprearing in photos while high" [or intoxicated] is prevelent among young people. Many who join in this social venture, later share regret.

What is alcohol poisoning and how should I respond if a friend is showing signs of alcohol poisoning?

The signs of alcohol poisoning

  • mental confusion-
  • stupor- near unconsciousness –daze- unconscious
  • not being able to be roused or awakened
  • pale or blue  tinge to skin
  • low body temperature
  • vomiting –repeatedly or while sleeping – no gag reflex
  • hypothermia- cold skin
  • severe hydration from vomiting can lead to permanent brain damage/ seizures
  • Hypoglycemia can lead to seizures - Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking heavily without eating can block your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia.

Danger Signs of alcohol poisoning

  • incoherent and unable to make rational responses
  • is unable to stand or walk
  • is poorly aware of his/her surroundings
  • has difficulty breathing- slow, shallow, irregular breathing--less than 8 breaths per minute-10 seconds or more between breaths
  • has passed out- unresponsive
  • has fever or chills
  • unable to stop vomiting

Take Action

WAKE – Wake the person

TURN – Turn them on their side to prevent choking or drowning

CALL – Call for emergency medical assistance

STAY – Stay with the person until paramedics arrive

What about alcohol and energy drinks? Doesn't the caffiene offset the alcohol?

A growing trend among young adults and teens is mixing energy drinks with alcohol. About 25 percent of college students consume alcohol with energy drinks, and they binge-drink significantly more often than students who don’t mix them... 42 percent of all energy-drink related emergency department visits involved combining these beverages with alcohol or drugs (including illicit drugs, like marijuana, as well as central nervous system stimulants, like Ritalin or Adderall)”

  • Large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and blood vessel problems such as heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Caffeine use may be associated with palpitations, anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, elevated blood pressure, and dehydration.
  • Young adults who combine caffeinated drinks with alcohol may not be able to tell how intoxicated they are, increasing risk for alcohol poisoning and overdose.
  • Many energy drinks contain as much as 25–50 g of simple sugars; this may be problematic for people who are diabetic or prediabetic. (National Institute for Health)

Alcohol and Caffeine Fact Sheet

Where can I learn more about alcohol use?

Alcohol Overdose Fact Sheet

Alcohol Myths

Facts about Alcohol Overdose

What to know about Alcohol and Brain Damage 

Alcohol and You: An Interactive Body

Every organ in the body is affected by alcohol consumption. On this site you can learn the health consequences for each vital organ.

Alcohol Calorie Calculator

BAC Calculator

This American Addiction Centers online tool allows you to calculate your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Please keep in mind that many things can impact Blood Alcohol Concentrates. The following variables can influence the concentration of alcohol in your body: Body Water, Illness, Tiredness, Age, Gender, Body Mass & Composition, Food Intake, Medications, Other substances, Tolerance and Individual Biology/Genetics  

This article in Psychology Today reveals alarming details of the "secondhand harms" of drinking: How Much Does Alcohol Harm People Besides the Drinker?

Find out how your drinking compares to others and Access resources nationwide: Alcohol Screening.Org- Self Assessment

Many People Don't Know the Dangers of Alcohol 

Interesting article and podcast from VOA Learning English- August 2019