Protective Behavioral Strategies
The following protective behavioral strategies are recommended for legal and responsible alcohol consumption to reduce risk or harm.
Alternate non-alcoholic beverages, such as water or gatorade with alcoholic beverages.
Plan ahead. Set a reasonable limit and stick to it. Use this online BAC calculator as a preventative tool to stay in your "sweet spot" zone (BAC of .05 or below).
Eat a substantial meal before you drink and snack throughout the night. Food helps to slow the rate of absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Eat foods high in protein (e.g. meat, eggs, or dairy products).
Limit yourself to a maximum of 1 drink per hour. Your body can only metabolize about one standard drink per hour. By keeping the pace to one drink per hour or less, your alcohol intake will not exceed your body’s ability to metabolize the alcohol.
Slow down. It takes about 20 min. for you to feel the effects of a single drink.
Drink at your own pace. Alcohol effects everyone differently, so don't try to keep up with your friends.
- Folks whose sex assigned at birth is female often become impaired from drinking more quickly than folks whose sex assigned at birth is male and their impairment lasts longer. This is because women's bodies generally have lower water content. Due to alcohol mixing with body water, a given amount of alcohol is more concentrated in a woman's body than in a man's. Even if a man and a woman weigh the same and drink the same amount, the alcohol in the woman's bloodstream typically reaches a higher level. Females have a lower quantity of an enzyme in their stomachs called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) that breaks down alcohol. Additionally, because women experience heightened drinking impairment shortly prior to menstruation, abstaining or drinking fewer than 3 drinks is advisable during that time.
- Some nationalities of East Asian heritage (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) also have lower levels of ADH.
Think quality, not quantity. Avoid drinking at a fast pace as this can take away the pleasure of drinking and puts you at risk for alcohol overdose.
Be cautious of mixed drinks with hard liquor. Experiment with the cocktail content calculator to see how many standard drinks are in common mixed drinks/cocktails.
Avoid drinking games and shots. It's easy to lose track of how much alcohol you are consuming and can lead to consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.
Avoid blacking out by counting how many standard drinks you are consuming.
Drink water before, during and after drinking alcohol. Drinking water can help you stay hydrated. You will feel better in the morning!
Mix and measure your own drinks. You put yourself at risk for receiving an altered drink if you do not know the source of the drink.
Check your mood. Alcohol intensifies mood. Avoid drinking if you are angry or depressed.
Drink less at large parties. Consider going late or leaving early.
Never leave your drink unattended and never accept a drink from someone you don't know. In a bar or restaurant, only accept drinks (even non-alcoholic ones) from the bartender/server.
Experiment with refusing drinks. Check out strategies to turn down or refuse a drink provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Do not mix alcohol with legal or illegal drugs. Mixing substances together can amplify the effect of the substances in an unpredictable way. It's difficult to predict how someone will react to a mixture of alcohol and drugs. Learn more about harmful interactions with mixing alcohol and medications.
Be cautious of large-batch drinks. Drink mixtures such as "jungle juice" can contain large amounts of alcohol in just one solo cup (up to 4-6 standard drinks) and there isn't an exact way to know how much alcohol was used.
Do not mix alcohol with energy drinks that contain caffeine (i.e. Red Bull). Drinking caffeinated energy drinks that are mixed with alcohol or contain alcohol increase your risks of injury. The caffeine can mask the signs of impairment. Learn more about the dangers of mixing alcohol and energy drinks.
Do not make alcohol the main focus of a party or social gathering with friends. Tell your friends to let you know when you've had enough.
Respect those who choose not to drink. Support your friends and keep their best interest in mind.
Don't drink and drive. Use a sober designated driver or have a plan for how you will get home safely. Download Uber/Lyft before you go out and make sure to have enough money.
Stick to standard drink sizes. This will help you count your drinks more accurately, pace yourself better, and prevent alcohol poisoning. One standard drink equals a 12-ounce beer (5% alcohol), a 5-ounce glass of table wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (40% alcohol). Use the drink size calculator provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to understand how many standard drinks are in common containers.
Keep an eye on your friends. Agree to watch out for each other. Go out with a group of people you trust and leave with the group you came with. Never leave someone stranded in an unfamiliar/unsafe situation.
Be an active bystander. Take it upon yourself to intervene if you notice someone who may be in a risky situation, especially if alcohol and/or drugs are involved. Remember, it's okay to create a distraction. Learn more about alcohol safety in social settings.
Refer to our Responsible Drinking Guide for more tips and resources!