High-Risk Consumption

  • High-risk drinking is often referred to as binge drinking. Common definitions for males usually involve drinking more than 1-2 drinks in an hour or more than 4-5 drinks over the course of a evening event. For females, high-risk drinking is characterized as consuming more than 1 drink per hour or 3-4 drinks over the course of an evening event.
  • Our liver can metabolize about 1 ounce of alcohol per hour (one 12 ounce beer, a 9 ounce glass of wine, or an 8 ounce mixed drink). Therefore, consumption over 1 pure ounce of alcohol per hour will typically lead to impairment.
  • In the college environment, the vast majority of students report drinking alcohol for social reasons. They commonly drink at parties, events, and bars while socializing with their peers.
  • Alcohol is an intoxicant which means it can be “toxic” to our system when ingesting excessive amounts. However, people have perfected the chemistry for distilling alcohol over time so that it may provide an intoxicating effect without killing us. Unfortunately, too much alcohol can be deadly; just like too much of any toxic chemical can be deadly.
  • When we ingest alcohol, it creates a chemical reaction within our system that depending on the intensity and volume of consumption can create a very mild intoxicating effect (small amounts), or a very serious toxic level (large amounts).
  • Because of the chemical reactions associated with drinking alcohol, impairment gradually begins as soon as we start drinking. As we consume alcohol, we are more likely to become less inhibited regarding our actions. Meaning, we will begin to make decisions that we typically wouldn’t make; like talking more, taking social risks, becoming overly familiar with others, and even make risky choices about what we are physically capable of doing.
  • There are several factors associated with our ability to tolerate the physiological effects of alcohol. How quickly you drink and the amount of alcohol in each drink has a huge effect on impairment. Staying below the high-risk categories described above regarding amounts of alcohol and avoiding high volume alcoholic beverages can help. For example, most beers are between 4 and 7 percent alcohol, wines are usually between 10 to 15 percent alcohol, and distilled liquors like vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and whiskey are 40 to 50 percent alcohol by volume. Unfortunately, many college parties include high-volume alcohol beverages like Jungle Juice which contains grain alcohol that is often 90 percent alcohol by volume. Therefore, imagine the difference between drinking a 16 ounce glass of beer in an hour versus drinking a 16 ounce class of Jungle Juice. The difference in alcohol content is incredible. Know your standard drink size.
    Standard Drink Size
    Drink Alcohol % Equivalence
    12 oz Beer 4% Alcohol 1 Standard Drink
    5 oz Wine 12% Alcohol 1 Standard Drink
    1.5 oz Liquor 40% Alcohol 1 Standard Drink
    16 oz Jungle Juice 90% Grain Alcohol 5 Standard Drinks
  • Size and body mass are important factors in terms of our rate of alcohol absorption. Larger, more muscular people tend to have a body composition that slows down the absorption rate of alcohol. Therefore, since women tend to be physically smaller than men, it is commonly held that women tend to have a faster absorption rate; therefore, become more quickly impaired.
  • Other factors related to impairment rate include genetic predispositions, use of prescription or illegal drugs, and food consumption. Because of genetic factors, it is a fair assumption that some of us are predisposed to have differing tolerance levels to chemicals such as alcohol. Mixing drugs and alcohol can also be extremely risky due to the unpredictability of potential chemical reactions to one another which may result in faster rates of intoxication and even death. Food consumption is also an important factor to consider as the absorption rate of alcohol will be much faster on an empty stomach.
  • As we become more impaired, our judgment continues to decline. We don’t have the safe-guards that we would normally employ when making choices and we actually think that we can continue to drink. Some people describe this beginning phase of drinking as euphoric and refer to this as getting a “buzz”. The feelings of losing our inhibitions can be freeing; however, the continuing effect of alcohol on our system typically leads to progressive impairment.
  • Unfortunately, the euphoric buzz creates a cycle of impaired judgment that leads to the continued consumption of alcohol which increases our likelihood of problems associated with high-risk drinking.
  • Others around us may start to see visible changes in our behavior indicating that we are becoming impaired. These changes include slurred or slowed patterns of speech, loss of physical coordination, uninhibited friendliness, slowed reaction times, and questionably poor judgment.
  • As we become impaired to the point of intoxication, we are at the greatest risk of alcohol-related automobile accidents, falls, and deaths. We are much more likely to be arrested, fight a friend or loved one, or be a victim of a crime. We are more likely to make poor choices regarding sexual indiscretions, drive under the influence, or be the victim or perpetrator of a sexual assault. High-risk drinkers are much more likely to miss classes, fail exams, and be academically dismissed from universities.
  • When participating in high-risk drinking, nothing sobers us up except time. Remember, it takes the liver approximately one hour to metabolize an ounce of alcohol. Therefore, nothing can speed up the process; not coffee, not food, not exercise; only time.
  • High-risk drinking leads to high-risk behaviors which lead to high-risk consequences. Keep it low-risk!