Drinking 101

Did you know that after caffeine, alcohol is the second most consumed substance by University students?

Not everyone chooses to drink alcohol and that decision should be respected.

People drink alcohol for lots of reasons, some people drink:

  • To celebrate
  • To relax and have fun with friends/acquaintances
  • To feel more confident and comfortable
  • To cope and relieve stress
  • To gain courage to experiment with gender, sexual and romantic identities
  • To approach others they are romantically or sexually interested in
  • To explore the effects of certain kinds of alcohol

Not everyone chooses to drink alcohol, but for those who do, it’s important to know how to balance the good aspects of drinking with the not so good aspects. Below we outline what a standard drink is. In general, a person should drink no more than one standard drink per hour and no more than 2 to 3 drinks per occasion, but even that might be too much for some.

drink size photot
What is a standard drink?

Below are things to consider before drinking.

What is your body type and weight?

  • The lower your body weight, the more quickly you will get intoxicated
  • Make sure you are alternating between drinking alcohol and water or drink less
  • People with smaller, shorter, or lighter bodies can get intoxicated faster because they reach higher blood-alcohol levels than people with larger, taller or heavier bodies.
  • If you are younger than 19, alcohol can harm healthy physical and mental development
  • Young adults (18-24 years old) shouldn’t exceed 2 to 3 drinks a day – which means binge drinking can have long term harmful effects.

Have you ingested other substances including medications?

  • Mixing other substances with alcohol, especially medications, can be dangerous
  • Alcohol can make medications less effective and make it harder for the body to process them, making medications stronger than usual
  • If you are considering drinking while taking a prescription, make sure to check the warnings on the packaging or talk to a health professional

What is the size, strength and/or number of drink(s) you've had? How quickly did you drink them?

  • Remember, one standard drink per hour, check the guidelines
  • Swap in non-alcoholic drinks when playing drinking games or avoid them all together
  • Avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks. Energy drinks mask the effects of alcohol making you feel like you aren’t as intoxicated as you actually are
  • Be aware that mixing alcohol with carbonated drinks speeds up the rate that alcohol reaches your blood stream, making you intoxicated more quickly

How much sleep have you had?

  • Plan to drink less or pace yourself if you are feeling tired
  • If you haven’t rested enough and alcohol lowers inhibition, you may be more easily irritable, quick to anger or more likely to engage in aggressive behaviours if you drink.

How much food have you eaten that day, before or during drinking?

  • Food does not absorb alcohol
  • Food helps to slow down the absorption rate of alcohol into our blood, so if you haven’t eaten well or at all you are more likely to get intoxicated quickly
  • Eat before you start drinking and throughout the time you are drinking to slow the effects of alcohol

Are you stressed or coping with a difficult situation?

  • Effects of alcohol depend on your mood and how you are feeling
  • If you are feeling stressed, sad or anxious your tolerance to the effects of alcohol lowers

Because each of us are different, our tolerance for alcohol is different. Peer pressuring someone to drink excessively or to binge drink can cause significant harm to them, and others.

Binge drinking is having many drinks in a short period of time or in one setting.  Drinking games, funnels/beer bongs, keg stands, chugging, and drinking shooters are all examples of binge drinking.

As alcohol levels increase in our blood stream, we experience different effects.

alcohol concentration photo
As blood alcohol concentration increases, so does impairment

Taken from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

If you are curious about your alcohol use, you can go to Alcohol Reality Check. This website offers a non-judgemental and confidential way to understand what the impacts are of your drinking.

Test your knowledge about alcohol, take the Alcohol Quiz or Standard Drink Test or check out Knowing Your Personal Limits.