Alcohol is no stranger to high school students and college campuses alike. And with frequent alcohol consumption, comes alcohol abuse and over-consumption. Many see alcohol as an essential part of their student experience, and with nearly 60% of full time college students reporting alcohol use in the past month, the question becomes: how can you safely know your limit?

Picture this:

A 19-year-old male college freshman has 5 drinks at a party at his fraternity.

A 21-year-old female college junior has 4 drinks at a friend’s house.

Are they at risk? Is this classified as binge drinking?

To be technical for just one second: The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism classifies binge drinking as a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.08 g/dL – which typically occurs after four drinks in two hours if you are female and after five drinks in two hours if you are male. So yes, both students are at risk of the dangers associated with binge drinking. Here comes the part where I lecture you on all of the dangerous things that you risk with excessive alcohol consumption: alcohol poisoning, death, assault, sexual assault, and academic problems. It is important to know the risks, and as a medical student it is my job to make sure that you are aware of the benefits and risks, and the likelihood that the benefits and risks will occur – informed consent, ya know? But that’s not the point. The point is that you can drink responsibly, but to do that, you must know your limit.

So now that you have the facts, what can you do to minimize the risks next time you choose to go out with your friends? The answer is quite simple and often understated: just be smart. Know what you are drinking (the alcohol content), how much you have had, and how fast you have consumed it. And next time your rowdy friend who has exclaimed from the beginning that the goal of the night is “to get hammered!!!!” asks to mix your drink for you, maybe pretend you didn’t hear them – or better yet, run the other direction as fast as you can 😉

Sources and other resources:

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