What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a liquid substance containing ethanol, an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. It’s produced by the fermentation of grains, fruits, or vegetables. People enjoy drinking as a social activity because alcohol lowers inhibitions, which can make for a more relaxed, friendly, fun atmosphere.

But the same factors that make drinking fun can quickly become damaging if you drink too much. “Lowered inhibitions” can escalate rapidly into poor judgment, impaired cognitive and motor abilities, and potentially harming yourself and others.

Don’t become a statistic. To have fun, know how to drink responsibly.

Common Effects of Alcohol on Your Body

 Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system—i.e. your brain and spinal cord—and by association, pretty much everything else. When it’s absorbed by into the bloodstream, alcohol inhibits the stimulating neurons produced by your brain, which can alter your mood and perceptions. It’s metabolized largely by your liver, which can only break down a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the rest to circulate in your bloodstream. The more you drink, the more intense the effects on your body. 

What’s “normal” drinking?

There’s no one definition for “normal” drinking. How much people can drink is a result of a variety of factors, including their age, weight, size, and gender. But while there’s no exact definition for what constitutes “normal” drinking, a couple of important factors help determine what’s acceptable drinking behavior:  

Moderate: Drinking in moderation is generally defined as having no more than 4 drinks a day or more than 14 drinks a week for men and no more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks a week for women (NIAA 2003). This does not translate to an average amount consumed over several days. Other factors that contribute to drinking moderately include:  

  • Not routinely exceeding the legal limit (.08% BAC) 
  • Making it a small and enjoyable, not major, part of your life 
  • Having many other activities and interests that don’t involve alcohol. 

Socialized: Drinking is primarily a social activity. Like playing a game, or going out to eat, a large part of the fun in drinking comes from sharing the experience with your friends. Drinking with your friends also helps keep each other in check. Drinking by yourself, or without people you know, is dangerous and may be a sign of deeper underlying issues.

What does “getting drunk” mean?

“Getting drunk,”  “wasted,” “hammered,” or any of a variety of related terms means being intoxicated from consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. The legal limit in Texas is a BAC of .08%, which usually means 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more for women. Please note that the cognitive and physical impairments of alcohol begin to happen at a much lower BAC than the legal limit.  

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is an excessive consumption of alcohol in a relatively short amount of time. It usually involves trying to get really drunk fast by drinking a lot, which raises your BAC over .08% and results in acute intoxication. It’s incredibly dangerous because it raises your BAC level uncontrollably quickly. Once your BAC reaches that level, you can’t sober up fast enough, meaning that you may have ingested a fatal dose of alcohol before its effects hit your bloodstream. In the long run, binge drinking results in much worse hangovers and other potentially damaging effects to your body, like high blood pressure, a higher risk of sexual assault, and increased risk of chronic diseases.   

What’s not normal?

Disordered drinking is any drinking behavior that harms or threatens your safety and wellbeing, or that of others. It’s not normal, smart, or safe to engage in to drink in ways that endanger you and/or your friends. Some disordered drinking behaviors include:   

  • Drinking until you pass out 
  • Drinking to get “blacked out” 
  • Drinking as an escape from feeling strong emotions, like anger, frustration, or grief 
  • Drinking so you feel more comfortable being sexually intimate 
  • Not being able to finish your homework, show up on time for classes, work, or events, or fulfill your extracurricular duties because you were drunk or too hungover 
  • Binge drinking 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol begin to wear off 
  • Getting arrested due to an alcohol-related incident 
  • Getting into a situation that increased your chances of getting hurt, like driving, swimming, having unsafe sex, or walking in a dangerous place  

What does the law say?

Texas law states that you’re legally intoxicated if your BAC (blood alcohol content) is .08% or higher. Texas law also states that it is illegal to consume alcohol if you’re under 21. Living on a wet campus does NOT change this: you, and everyone else, must abide by Texas state law. Rice’s alcohol policy outlines the specific guidance for drinking on campus if you are of legal age.  

What’s the big deal with alcohol + energy drinks?

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) are an increasingly popular trend, particularly among college students. CABs are any beverages that combine alcohol, caffeine, and potentially other stimulants (such as adding or consuming an energy drink, like Red Bull, with your alcoholic beverage). Premixed drinks are usually malt or distilled-spirits based and have higher alcohol content than beer, a range of 5%-12% as opposed to beer’s typical 4%-5%. When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the stimulating effects of the caffeine masks the depressant effects of the alcohol, meaning that you don’t feel as drunk as you actually are. You’re more likely to consume more alcohol than you would if you hadn’t had a CAB, because you can’t tell when you’re at the “drunk” tipping point and should stop. You also have an increased risk of:   

  • Binge drinking—you’re 3 times as likely to binge drink if you’ve consumed alcohol with energy drinks, based on recent statistics. 
  • Sexual harassment or assault—you’re twice as likely to report being taken advantage of sexually or taking advantage of someone else sexually. 
  • Riding with a drunk driver   

Am I an alcoholic? 

Alcoholism is a chronic disease in which you’re dependent on alcohol. Some of the symptoms of alcoholism include:   

  • Craving: A strong need, or urge, to drink. 
  • Loss of control: Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun. 
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking. 
  • Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get "high." 

Factors that influence alcoholism include:  

  • Genetics 
  • If alcoholism runs in your family 
  • Your friends 
  • How stressed you are 
  • Availability of alcohol 

Becoming dependent on, or addicted to, the effects of alcohol is debilitating not only for your personal wellbeing, but also that of your friends and the people around you. When your use of alcohol begins to interfere with your everyday life, you need to seek help

What’s a “blackout”/”brownout”?

A blackout is alcohol-induced amnesia, in which the effects of alcohol impair your ability to create long-term memories. However, while you are experiencing a blackout you may not appear to be: you may be able to carry on conversations and manage difficult tasks, but you will be unable to remember anything that happened more than a few minutes ago. Blacking out is different than passing out, which is the loss of consciousness. A brownout is a fragmentary blackout, and is much more common than a complete blackout. During a brownout, you are able to recall certain events from when you were intoxicated, while you don’t remember other gaps in your memory until someone else reminds you. Experiencing either of these effects on your body is dangerous, as not remembering where you are or what you’re doing could lead to injury, sexual assault, or engaging in other high-risk behaviors. Experiencing a blackout or brownout is a sign that you’re engaging in disordered drinking behaviors. It’s not funny, safe, or normal for this to be happening to you. 

What happens to your body when you get alcohol poisoning?

When you get alcohol poisoning, you’ve ingested a dangerous, potentially fatal dose of alcohol. When this happens, alcohol “turns off” nerves that control fundamental involuntary functions, such as breathing, the gag reflex, and consciousness. If there is any suspicion or signs of an alcohol overdose, call EMS immediately at x6000 for help. 



Signs and symptoms:  

If left untreated, alcohol poisoning can escalate into:  

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused. 
  • Vomiting. 
  • Seizures. 
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute). 
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths). 
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness. 


  • A coma 
  • Breathing stops 
  • Choking on vomit (which could kill if the person is unconscious) 
  • BAC could continue to rise 
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death 

Factors that affect how your body reacts to alcohol

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Physical condition (weight, fitness level, etc).
  • Amount of food consumed before drinking.
  • How quickly the alcohol was consumed.
  • Use of drugs or prescription medicines.
  • Family history of alcohol problems.
  • Your tolerance: how quickly your liver metabolizes the alcohol   

Common Misconceptions

(adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) 

1. Myth: I can sober up quickly if I have to.

Fact: You can't speed up how quickly you sober up. It takes about 3 hours to eliminate the content of 2 drinks, depending on body weight. Nothing, not even caffeine or a cold shower, can speed up the process. 

2. Myth: If my friend's about the same size and weight as I am, I should be able to match him/her drink for drink.

Fact: Everyone's different. Don’t assume that physical similarities indicate similarities in drinking abilities. Pay attention to your own body; don’t exceed or challenge your limits just because someone else seems okay when they do it. 

3. Myth: I’m still okay to drive after a few drinks.   

Fact: Even low doses of alcohol impair your judgment and coordination. In fact, about half of all fatal car crashes in the 18–24 age group involve alcohol. 

4. Myth: I’m in control.   

Fact: If you’ve been drinking, your cognitive and physical functioning is impaired. You may think you’re as “in control” as you are when you’re sober, but even if you feel this way, in fact your reaction times are slower and your perceptions have been altered.  

5. Myth: I can think of one cup or beer’s worth as the equivalent to one alcoholic drink.   

Fact: Most containers hold more than one drink’s worth of alcohol. You can’t rely on them to accurately keep track of how much alcohol you’ve been drinking.   

What's a standard drink?

A standard drink is equal to 13.7 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. The amount of pure alcohol by volume varies depending on the beverage. If you want to know the alcohol content of your beverage, check the label. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

  • 12 ounces of beer.
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor.
  • 5 ounces of wine.
  • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).   

Stages of BAC

Death (BAC more than 0.50 percent)—The person usually stops breathing and dies. 

BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, is the percent of alcohol in a person's blood stream. A BAC of .10% means that an individual's blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1000 parts blood. In Texas, a person is legally intoxicated if he/she has a BAC of .08% (80 mg/dL) or higher.

Factors that determine BAC include:  

Stages of BAC:  

  1. Euphoria (BAC = 0.03 to 0.12 percent)
    • May become more self-confident, daring.
    • Shorter attention span.
    • Trouble with fine movements (writing, etc).
  2. Excitement (BAC = 0.09 to 0.25 percent)
    • Trouble understanding or remembering things (even recent events).
    • Slower reaction times
    • Impaired balance and coordination
    • Blurry vision
    • Impaired sensory perception (hearing, tasting, feeling, etc.)
  3. Confusion (BAC = 0.18 to 0.30 percent)
    • Confusion (they may not know where they are or what’s going on)
    • Dizzy, may stagger.
    • Highly emotional (overly aggressive,or overly friendly)
    • Blurry vision
    • Sleepy
    • Slurred speech
    • Uncoordinated movements
  4. Stupor (BAC = 0.25 to 0.4 percent)
    • Can barely move.
    • Cannot respond to stimuli.
    • Vomiting.
    • Lapsing in and out of consciousness
  5. Coma (BAC = 0.35 to 0.50 percent)
    • Unconscious.
    • Depressed reflexes
    • Lower than normal body temperature
    • Slower, more shallow breathing.
    • Slowed heart rate

Tips for Having Fun and Staying Safe

  1.  Plan ahead: Know how you’re going to get home and have a designated driver if you’re going off campus.
  2. Drink with people you know and trust 
  3. Keep track: Enlist a buddy, tally on your arm, or keep a card in your wallet.
  4. Know what a standard drink is: Realize that most containers have more than one standard drink’s worth of alcohol.
  5. Stick to your limits about days you want to drink per week and drink within your limits to reduce potential risk of having an alcohol use disorder and related health problems.
  6. Pace yourself: Limit yourself to one drink or fewer per hour.
  7. Alternate with nonalcoholic drinks such as sodas, juice, or water.
  8. Eat something: Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  9. Avoid triggers: Avoid or be aware of your temptations to drink around certain people, places, or times. If you do fall into one of these situations, have a response ready to say “no.”
  10. Learn how to say, "No thanks": No one at Rice should ever pressure you to drink if you don’t want to. If you’re at a social gathering and offered alcohol, have a polite response prepared to decline it, and ask for an alternative non-alcoholic beverage.    

Common Risks of Drinking Too Much

The consequences of drinking too much can have ramifications far beyond you or your friends, and could prompt debilitating long-term consequences. Even if you don’t drink, the risky drinking behaviors of others can potentially threaten your wellbeing.
In an annual report of statistics collected from college campuses nationwide, the following were the top consequences of excessive and/or underage drinking:

  • Injury    
  • Death   
  • Assault 
  • Sexual Abuse 
  • Unsafe Sex 
  • Academic Problems 
  • Health Problems/Suicide Attempts 
  • Drunk Driving 
  • Vandalism 
  • Property Damage 
  • Police Involvement 
  • Alcohol Abuse and Dependence      

Help a Drunk Friend

Use this information if your friend is not acutely intoxicated and/or in danger of alcohol overdose. If your friend is unconscious or you suspect your friend has overdosed on alcohol, call RUPD (x6000) or REMS immediately. If you’re concerned that your friend has had too much to drink and doesn’t need to have any more, here are some tips for intervening while remaining socially conscious and not insulting her or making it worse:

  1.  Substitute their drink for a nonalcoholic beverage: Pour a nonalcoholic drink, like a soda, into a cup, and offer it to them. Not only will it hydrate them, it’ll serve as a placebo for actual alcohol, preventing them from getting any drunker.
  2. Stay with them: The drunker someone is, the higher their risk for experiencing negative consequences from drinking. If your friend begins exhibiting any of the symptoms of an alcohol overdose, call EMS or RUPD immediately.
  3. Make sure they don’t leave the party alone, and that they go back with someone you trust, or better yet, walk them back yourself and make sure they get in safely. 
  4. Tell them “no”: That’s what friends are for. If your friend continues to demand more to drink, or accuses you of preventing them from drinking, be honest with them. Tell them you’re concerned that they’ve had too much, and that they’re drunk enough as it is. Enlist other friends to help you convey the message to your friend as well.
  5. Remind them of the possible negative consequences if they keep drinking, like being called to the attention of the Chief Justice, RUPD, or EMS.
  6. Don’t let them engage in unsafe behaviors such as driving, biking, or going anywhere alone.
  7. Don’t try to “treat” them: Don’t attempt any “sobering up” remedies on them, because they won’t work. Only time will sober them up, and things like caffeine, food, or cold showers may actually increase their risk of injury or vomiting.
  8. If you suspect your friend has overdosed on alcohol, call EMS. Never leave the patient alone. Place the student in the proper caregiving position, or, if you don’t remember it, contact students who have been trained as caregivers. While you’re waiting for EMS, try to locate the person’s friends. If EMS gives you the okay to be a caregiver for your friend after checking him out, continue to use the Bacchus maneuver.



Drinking Norms at Rice

Being on a "wet campus" means that alcohol is allowed on campus.
Rice expects students to act like adults and to be able to handle and follow the alcohol policy accordingly.
Rice strives to foster an atmosphere of trust, responsibility, and accountability when it comes to its expectations and community standards for a healthy wet campus. College courts, made up of a Chief Justice and Associate Justice, are elected student leaders charged with guiding and enforcing the spirit of the alcohol policy. If there is a minor violation, it will be assessed by the college court. More severe violations of the alcohol policy will be handled by Student Judicial Programs.

The alcohol policy is campus and university-wide. If you are a student at this university, the alcohol policy applies to you regardless of where you are.

Recent stats based on a survey sample of Rice undergrads reveal the following wet campus norms:

  • Most (98%) Rice students engage in risk reduction behaviors while drinking, such as eating before or during drinking, using a designated driver, and keeping track of what they drink.
  • 41% of students reported that they did something they later regretted as a result of drinking within the past 12 months.
  • 20% of students reported physically injuring themselves as a result of risky drinking behavior. 
  • Students surveyed misperceive the amount of drinking that happens on campus. Only slightly over half of Rice students reported using alcohol within the past month, and even then, 46% of all students reported either never using alcohol, or not using alcohol within the past 30 days. These stats are in marked contrast to the incredibly high percentage, 98%, of people whom students perceived to be using alcohol.

(Based on results from Spring 2011 Survey conducted by American College Health Association National College Health Assessment II – 448 respondents, undergraduate Rice student population.)



“Alcohol.” DrugFree.Org.  

Choose Responsibility. 

“Alcohol FAQ.”

Center for Disease Control.  

“Blood Alcohol Percentage Charts.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  

College Drinking Prevention.  

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 

“Rethinking Drinking.” National Institute of Health.