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, and drink responsibly.
How it works
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. So, the more you drink, the
more intense the effects on your body.
Common Effects of Alcohol 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, gender, etc. 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. Some typical settings where people drink include:
- dinner (glass of wine, beer) with your meal
- at a tailgate
- at a party or social gathering
- at a bar or pub
- wine or beer tasting
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. If something goes wrong, the more dangerous your drinking behaviors, the more damaging the potential consequences for those involved.
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 (shakiness, etc.) 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, 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, from Four Loko to 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. So in addition to being wired, 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:
Factors that influence 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."
- 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, then it’s become a problem and you need to get help.
What’s a “blackout”/”brownout”?
A blackout is basically 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 completely 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. In addition, experiencing a blackout or brownout is a sign that you’re engaging in disordered drinking behaviors. In reality, 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.
Signs and symptoms:
If left untreated, alcohol poisoning can escalate into:
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused.
- 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 them if they’re unconscious)
- BAC could continue to rise
- Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death
What should I do?
If there is any suspicion or signs of an alcohol overdose, call EMS immediately at x6000 for help. Don't try to guess the level of drunkenness.
Factors that affect how your body reacts to alcohol
condition (weight, fitness level, etc).
- Amount of
food consumed before drinking.
quickly the alcohol was consumed.
- Use of
drugs or prescription medicines.
history of alcohol problems.
tolerance – how quickly your liver metabolizes the alcohol
(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, nor willing yourself to sober up, can speed up the process.
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.
So, 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
of malt liquor.
or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum,
vodka, or whiskey).
Stages of BAC
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.
determine BAC include:
- Number of standard drinks
- Amount of
time in which drinks are consumed
- Food you’ve
eaten before drinking (to lesser extent)
Stages of BAC:
- Euphoria (BAC = 0.03 to 0.12 percent)
Excitement (BAC = 0.09 to 0.25 percent)
- May become more
- Shorter attention
- Trouble with fine
movements (writing, etc).
Confusion (BAC = 0.18 to 0.30 percent)
understanding or remembering things (even recent events).
- Slower reaction
- Impaired balance
- Blurry vision
- Impaired sensory
perception (hearing, tasting, feeling, etc.)
Stupor (BAC = 0.25 to 0.4 percent)
- Confusion (they
may not know where they are or what’s going on).
- Dizzy, may
emotional - overly aggressive, or
overly friendly, etc.
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
Coma (BAC = 0.35 to 0.50 percent)
- Can barely move.
- Cannot respond to
- Lapsing in and
out of consciousness
Death (BAC more than 0.50 percent) - The
person usually stops breathing and dies.
- Lower than normal
- Slower, more
- Slowed heart rate
Tips for Having Fun and Staying Safe
ahead – know how you’re going to get home, and have a
designated driver if you’re going off campus
- Drink with
people you know and trust
track – enlist a buddy, tally on your arm, keep a
card in your wallet, mental note
what a standard drink is (link)– Realize that most containers have more
than one standard drink’s worth of alcohol. If you’re not sure how much
alcohol’s in your drink, ask someone – the bartender, whoever mixed it. Or,
better yet, mix your own drinks.
to your limits – about days you want to drink per week, drink
within your limits to reduce potential risk of having an alcohol use disorder
and related health problems
yourself – Limit yourself to one drink or fewer per hour
with nonalcoholic drinks – like sodas, juice, or water
something – don’t drink on an empty stomach.
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.”
- 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
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.
an annual report of statistics collected from college campuses nationwide, the
following were overwhelming the top consequences of excessive and/or underage
- Sexual Abuse
- Unsafe Sex
- Academic Problems
- Health Problems/Suicide Attempts
- Drunk Driving
- Property Damage
- Police Involvement
- Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
Help a Drunk Friend
Only 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, don’t hesitate to call RUPD 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:
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. If they continue to demand
another drink, then the game is up and you need to be honest with them. Your top priority should be making sure they don’t
consume any more alcohol, and that they stay safe. Stay with them – The drunker someone is, the higher
their risk for experiencing negative consequences from drinking, some of them
life-threatening, from an alcohol
overdose to sexual assault.
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.
you’re still unsure whether or not they’re okay to be alone, stay with them
until their drunken symptoms subside. If they don’t subside, or if your friend
begins exhibiting any of the symptoms of
an alcohol overdose, call EMS or RUPD immediately.
- 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.
them of the possible negative consequences if they keep drinking, like being
called to the attention of the Chief Justice, RUPD, or EMS.
your top priority is to make sure they DON’T have any more to drink, and that
they stay safe.
- Don’t’ let them engage in unsafe
behaviors – such as
driving, biking, or going anywhere alone.
- 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
- If you suspect your friend has
overdosed on alcohol, don’t hesitate to call EMS. Never leave the patient alone.
student in the proper caregiving position, or, if you don’t remember it,
contact students that have been trained as caregivers (a program that will be
instituted shortly after O-Week). 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. Being a wet college campus is pretty unique.
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. 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 Collge Health Assessment II – 448 respondents, undergraduate Rice student population.
In the colleges:
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.
college has a different party culture, and different set of spaces considered
“public” and “private,” where alcohol may or may not be allowed. These spaces, along
with the traditions and social groups at the college, may also influence a
particular college’s party culture.
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
in doubt about something – whether it’s the appropriate way to throw a party, what’s
allowed and what’s not, or what to do if you think something is getting out of
control – don’t hesitate to contact your Chief Justice. They are the first line
of peer enforcement and guidance for community standards and policies. However,
if something’s an immediate danger to yourself or others, call RUPD.
“Alcohol.” DrugFree.Org. http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/alcohol
“Alcohol.” Kidshealth.org. http://kidshealth.org/teen/drug_alcohol/alcohol/alcohol.html
“Alcohol and the Brain.” Choose Responsibility. http://www.chooseresponsibility.org/article/view/15555/1/2649
“Alcohol FAQ.” Center for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
“Blood Alcohol Percentage Charts.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. http://www.tabc.state.tx.us/enforcement/blood_alcohol_percentage_chart.asp
College Drinking Prevention. http://collegedrinkingprevention.gov
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/FAQs/General-English/default.htm#whatis
“Rethinking Drinking.” National Institute of Health. http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/