Alcohol Education

Safer Drinking Guidelines

Download and distribute the Safer Drinking Guidelines brochure to provide students with tips on how to avoid alcohol poisoning.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a measure of the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. A BAC of .20 means 2 drops of alcohol for 1,000 drops of blood. It is important to understand the factors that affect BAC and how the effects of drinking alcohol vary among individuals.

You can learn more about BAC in a virtual bar known as the Blood Alcohol Educator. This interactive software demonstrates how different drinking scenarios affect Blood Alcohol Concentration. By re-creating realistic drinking experiences, you will be able to see how the same amount of alcohol can affect others of different weight and gender.

Keep in mind that the impairment experienced at any blood alcohol level is dependent on one’s tolerance to alcohol. Tolerance is a measure of how sensitive a person is to alcohol’s effects. The higher our tolerance, the less able we are to tell when we are impaired. Therefore, those with a low tolerance to alcohol will notice effects at lower BACs, while those with a higher tolerance will notice them somewhat later.


Defining “A Drink”

The size of a container is not the best way to measure “a” drink. To make low-risk drinking choices and avoid negative consequences as a result of drinking, we need a standard measure that will apply to different kinds of alcoholic beverages regardless of how they are served.

Beer – Most domestic beer is 4 to 5% alcohol, served in 12-ounce cans or bottles. This means an average beer contains about ½ ounce of pure alcohol.

Wine – The average table wine contains 12% alcohol, so 5 ounces of wine would contain about ½ ounce of pure alcohol.

Liquor/Distilled Spirits – One ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits would contain ½ ounce of pure alcohol.

Measured in this way – beer, wine and liquor contain about ½ ounce of pure alcohol, which is a little more than the average amount of alcohol that the body can metabolize in our hour. For this reason, that amount has become the standard for one drink. Depending on their glass or container, some “single” serving drinks may be the equivalent of two or more standard “drinks”.

View the comprehensive Standard Drink Conversion chart the Gordie Center developed to examine a variety of beverage containers and calculate how many standard drinks are included.



Basic Principles

  • If you have any doubt about a student’s safety, you need to err on the side of caution and call 911.
  • Remember, an intoxicated person is not rational.  Alcohol has affected judgment and you cannot reason with him/her. 
  • Avoid being confrontational or aggressive.  Joking, kidding, bargaining, and enlisting the help of friends can be more effective.  Try to stay calm and quiet. 
  • If a person becomes violent or uncooperative, your first priority is your own safety and the safety of those around you.  Call for assistance, up to and including the police. 
  • If a person is very intoxicated and staggering, vomiting or passing/passed out, he/she may need emergency care.  Try to get the individual in bed and follow the guidelines listed below.


Immediate care of someone who has passed out

Check four “PUBS” signs to determine if the situation is an emergency

Puking (while passed out)

Unresponsive to stimulation (pinch or shaking)

Breathing (slow, shallow or no breathing)

Skin (blue, cold or clammy)

  • If even one of these signs is present, call 911.  If vital signs are slowing, do not wait – call 911 immediately! 

Still not sure you should call 911? The National Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) provides free, expert, confidential advice 24/7/365.

  • BAC can continue to rise after one stops drinking.  Never leave a person alone to sleep it off.
  • The intoxicated person should be protected from injury, kept still and comfortable.
  • If the person is in bed, make sure the person is on her side—not back.  Make sure the airway remains open in case of vomiting. 
  • Someone should stay in the room and check on the person at least every 10-15 minutes.
  • If the person is unresponsive, get emergency medical care immediately.

Obtaining Medical Assistance

  • Call 911 and identify yourself to the 911 operator.  State your problem and what you feel you need.
  • Give the specific location of the incident and the phone number.
  • Stay there until help arrives.  Have someone else meet the emergency personnel outside and guide them to location.
  • DO NOT administer anything orally (food, coffee, water, etc.).  It can induce vomiting.
  • DO NOT give the person a cold shower. The shock could cause the person to pass out and be injured.
  • DO NOT try to exercise the person.  The person could fall and cause injury.
  • DO NOT try to restrain the person.

Research Spotlight

Stress, Epigentics, and Alcoholism (2012)

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago discuss the complex interplay of stress levels and biological mechanisms in the development of alcoholism. For combating dangerous drinking habits in the high-stress college environment, this analysis can allow educators to create stategies addressing the root cause of the issue. Researchers Sachin Moonat, M.S., and Subhash C. Pandey, Ph.D., write that "stress and associated disorders, including anxiety, are key factors in the development of alcoholism because alcohol consumption can temporarily reduce the drinker's dysphoria." Read the full research review here.

The Burden of Alcohol Use: Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Related Consequences Among College Students (2013)

This research review by Aaron White, Ph.D., and Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., is a must read for students and any educator on substance abuse prevention. White and Hingson discuss the realities of drinking on our campuses, using a wealth of data to provide intriguing insights into the modern college atmosphere that our students face nationwide. "Data from the Harvard College Alcohol Study indicate that students who binge one or two times during a 2-week period are roughly three times as likely as non-binge drinkers to get behind in school work, do something regretful while drinking, experience a memory blackout, have unplanned sex, fail to use birth control during sex, damage property, get in trouble with the police, drive after drinking, or get injured." The full review is available here.

Alcohol Binge Drinking during Adolescence or Dependence During Adulthood Reduces Prefrontal Myelin in Male Rats (2014)

In this recent research, scientists found that both adolescent binge drinking and adult dependence can possibly have lasting negative effects on the mammalian brain. Cells that form a capsule around the axon of neurons, referred to collectively as a myelin shealth, are critical to the functionality of the nervous system and appear to be reduced in the prefrontal cortex by abuse. The full study can be found in the The Journal of Neuroscience here.