Facts About Drinking Alcohol
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
Seasonal changes are on the way, and that means many college students will find opportunities to enjoy outdoor festivities where they may be serving alcohol. But, since 21 is the legal drinking age, it’s worthwhile to look at some alternatives to drinking alcohol that could be equally as enjoyable or more so.
First, let’s review a little about drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful or smart. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow:
- One (serving-sized) drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.)
- Serving sizes: If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware of these serving sizes:
- Beer—12 ounces
- Liquor—one ounce
- Wine—five ounces.
- Stay hydrated. In order to prevent dehydration, drink eight ounces of water per hour. (This will also help ward off a hangover the next day.)
- Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
- Designate a driver. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation.
Some reasons to avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol damages liver tissue, sometimes permanently. Brain tissue is permanently damaged by drinking alcohol (something to “think” about, if you are a serious college student). It can also lower inhibitions and make you act in a way you would not normally act. Alcohol is a depressant, and so somebody who drinks alcohol regularly is more likely to develop mental health side effects, such as chronic depression. Alcoholic beverages are also highly caloric, with very little nutritional value. If you put junk into your body, you will get junk in return. It is not the best choice for an ambitious college student. Also, many young people these days are on prescription medication, which is contraindicative for drinking alcohol.
So, then, what are some alternatives to drinking that cold beer? There are countless resources online. (A few are listed at the end of this article.) Here are a few good ideas both for social events and when at home:
- Sip a non-alcoholic beverage if attending a party where alcohol is served. For example, have orange juice, instead of a screwdriver. Drink ginger ale, instead of a Moscow Mule. Or, have a V8 instead of a Bloody Mary.
- Drink something new to you, like herbal tea, or a Thai latte.
- Invest in a blender, and learn to make fruit smoothies!
- Nonalcoholic beer or sparkling grape juice is a good choice for those who do not want to draw attention.
- Club soda, with a lemon twist, will satisfy your thirst and your taste buds simultaneously.
- Be conscious of why you are drinking. Is it an oral fixation? Are you stressed out? Are you drowning your sorrows? Or, are you celebrating something? If you are drinking for the wrong reason, then find an alternative.
- Think about calories. Sometimes considering calorie content is enough to change over to water. If you are trying to trim your waist for the summer, then less is more.
- Alternate each drink with water. That way you will be drinking only half the alcohol, theoretically, as you would have been before.
- Get involved with an active group of people, such as a group at com. Or find a campus group that interests you. Since we become like the people we hang around with, it makes sense to choose healthy people.
Finally, you’ll be glad you resisted the temptation to drink because:
- It’s much more fun to be in control.
- You won’t have a hangover when you need to study.
- You will not be suffering from the consequences of decisions made when under the influence.
- You will actually remember the fun you had and the memories you made.
- Your waistline, liver, brain, and overall health will thank you.
- Making the right choices will empower you and not depress you!
For more information on enjoying an alcohol-free holiday, visit these Web sites:
Alcohol facts and statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Fact sheet about alcohol and your health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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