Of the current student body in America, between two and three percent will eventually die from alcohol related causes, about the same number as will get advanced degrees, master's and doctorate degrees combined. For the over 12 million college students in the United States, the annual consumption of alcoholic beverages totals well over 430 million gallons. That is the same amount it would take to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool on every college and university campus in America. Alcohol is involved in sixty-five percent of traffic fatalities, fifty percent of all murders, thirty-three percent of all suicides and forty percent of all fatal car crashes.

For these reasons it is important that you know the facts so you can "call the shots."

Impairment vs. B.A.C.

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (B.A.C) refers to the amount of alcohol contained in 100ccs of blood and is legally expressed in grams percent.
  • Impairment begins at .05 grams percent for adolescents and adult females and at .08 grams percent for adult males.
  • Impairment is any time you have consumed or ingested enough of any substance to alter physical, mental and/or emotional functioning. Impairment may cause accidents, drinking and driving crashes, legal problems, decrease in job performance, fights, property destruction resulting from poor judgement, etc.
  • Impairment occurs much sooner than a person feels or looks drunk. Impairment affects vision, reaction time and perception (especially of time and space).

Factors That Can Alter the Effects of Alcohol

There are individual factors that can speed up the effects of alcohol. As a result, your B.A.C. might be just a .06 or .08 grams percent and your impairment level may be as high as .10 or .12 grams percent. The following are examples of the factors and part of the explanation:

  • Stomach Content
    • Drinking on an empty stomach significantly speeds up the effects of alcohol.
  • Type of Drinking
    • The higher the percentage of alcohol, the faster the impairment. If the alcohol is mixed with food based products (i.e. juice or milk), it slows down the impairment. If alcohol is mixed with water or carbonated beverages, it speeds up the impairment.
  • Other Drugs
    • Many over-the-counter medications can speed up the effects of alcohol, such as cold medications, antihistamines, aspirin, etc. The same is true for several illegal drugs.
  • Mood and Expectations
    • If you consume alcohol when either excited or depressed, impairment occurs quicker.
  • Altitude
    • One drink on a plane is equivalent to two on the ground.
  • Recent Illness or Tiredness
    • Impairment can happen faster when drinking after even a minor illness or a significant lack of sleep.
  • Age
    • Older people and adolescents can not metabolize alcohol as quickly and can be impaired faster.
  • Male/Female
    • Females have more fat content and therefore feel the effects of alcohol faster and stay impaired longer.
  • Body Size
    • If you have a smaller liver you may not be able to metabolize the normal ½ oz. of pure alcohol ( the amount in an average drink) per hour. In addition, the more fat content you have, the faster you will become impaired.
  • Oral Contraceptives and/or Menstruation
    • Females will be impaired quicker for three or four days prior to their period and if they are on oral contraceptives.

Tolerance vs. Impairment

  • Tolerance does not offset impairment-it just delays it and some impairment, that is not obvious, occurs early (even with high tolerance).
  • High tolerance gives false security that you "handle" your alcohol and, therefore, you are frequently at a higher risk for accidents because you generally take more chances.
  • People with high tolerance are chosen to drive because they do not appear to be impaired.
  • Other drug use, especially marijuana, may give the false impression of tolerance.
  • High tolerance is not effective in offsetting impairment in emergency or unexpected situations.

How Does All This Affect Me?

Personal Consequences

Anyone who drinks to the level of impairment is at risk for a multitude of problems. These problems range from relationship issues, decrease in performance levels, reduction in abstract mental functioning, cumulative organ damage, increased occurrence of date and acquaintance rape, unplanned and protected sex, legal problems, automobile crashes, alcoholism, and early death.

Negative Effects

Consequences resulting from alcohol or other drug use experienced by students at least once in the past year:
Had a hangover - 63.0%
Became nauseated or vomited - 49.9%
Later regretted actions - 39.3%
Drove while intoxicated - 36.0%
Got into an argument or fight - 33.2%
Missed class - 30.4%
Experienced memory loss - 28.0%