How much is too much?

By Samantha Fenno
Consuming alcohol is one of many things college students do to unwind, feel more comfortable at parties, be more sociable, or just have fun. While alcohol can be pleasure-enhancing, it can also quickly become dangerous and even deadly. College students are particularly at risk for binge drinking. It may surprise you to learn that medical authorities define binge drinking as consuming more than 4 drinks per event for women, or more than 5 drinks per event for men. After this point, the body’s ability to maintain coordination and judgment are highly impaired. Students drinking at this level place themselves at risk of becoming involved in unwanted sexual situations, car accidents, muggings, pedestrian accidents, physical altercations, and police arrest for underage drinking, public intoxication, and DUI. Binge drinking is unfortunately very common on college campuses, and particularly dangerous on an urban campus such as ours. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and death–a terrible event on many college campuses every year.
Do you, or does a friend, sometimes drink more than 4 or 5 drinks in an evening? If you do, cutting back would be in the interests of both your health and your safety. You can stay safest by eliminating alcohol consumption altogether, but you might also consider the following tips for keeping drinking safer:
–Memorize standard drink measures. 1 drink = 12 oz. beer = 5 oz. glass of wine = 1 oz. shot of hard liquor.
–Count your drinks. Put a number of rubber bands around your wrist that represents the number of drinks you think it’s safe to have. Take one off each time you order a drink. If you run out of rubber bands, it’s time to stop drinking.
–Avoid doing shots. Hard liquor adds a lot of alcohol to your system and it may take awhile for you to recognize how intoxicated you’re becoming until it is too late.
–Carry a water bottle. Don’t drink alcohol because you are thirsty. Alcohol dehydrates your body, which can cause you to want to consume more alcohol. More alcohol ultimately will not quench your thirst, but it will make you more intoxicated and put you at risk. Drink water when you are thirsty.
–Hang out with people who drink less than you typically do. And drink only as much as they do.
–If you have trouble controlling binge drinking, seek help. Binge drinking is a warning sign for alcohol addiction and dependence. It is also sometimes a standalone problem. Students do not have to be at risk for alcoholism to end up in dangerous situations from over-drinking once in awhile.
If you are worried about binge drinking or have questions about your alcohol consumption, consider calling Counseling Services at (312) 369-8700. You can also check out the online drinking assessment on our web page ( Counseling Services therapists can assist you in assessing your alcohol consumption and addressing any issues you may have with it.