Most College Students Drink in Moderation and Many Abstain from Alcoholic Beverages

Although the majority of college and university students drink, research has long found that heavy drinking among students is more misperception than reality.

Nationally, about 20 percent of college students don't drink alcohol at all. For example, at the University of Missouri, that's 6,000 alcohol abstainers. The Missouri College Health Behavior Survey conducted at UM found that most students consume zero to four drinks per week.

For those who do drink, it's not high on their priority lists. Dr. Kim Dude, Director of the Wellness Resource Center at UM reports that "According to our scientifically sound surveys, drinking is fifth on the list of what university students do for fun, and seventh or eighth in terms of relieving stress."

"We accept that underage drinking does occur," Dude said. "But we put things into perspective and focus on drinking the safe way. Our hope is that if students do choose to drink, they keep their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.05 or below." For more, visit How Alcohol Affects Us: The Biphasic Curve.

Most students don't drink on Sunday to Thursday nights and the vast majority eat before drinking and alternate between consuming alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Dr. Dude says that most students who choose to drink "make healthy, smart and safe decisions." She makes five suggestions for safe drinking:

  1. Don't drink and drive. Always use a designated driver.
  2. Keep your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.05 or below.
  3. Don't drink during the week.
  4. Watch out for the safety and welfare of your friends.
  5. Don't be pressured into drinking if you choose not to drink.

Here are more tips:

  1. Don't be fooled! A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are the same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is:
    • A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
    • A 5-ounce glass of wine
    • A one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)
  2. Eat food while you drink. Food will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your body.
  3. Sip your drinks.
  4. Don't participate in "chugging" contests or other drinking games.
  5. Don't consume more than one standard alcoholic drink per hour.
  6. Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Some drinks, such as zombies and other fruit drinks, can be deceiving as the alcohol content is not detectable. Therefore, it is difficult to space them properly.
  7. Drink alcohol carefully in connection with pharmaceuticals. Ask your physician or pharmacist about any precautions or prohibitions and follow any advice received.



  • Lee, Min-Zhui. Students and alcohol: Not a smart mix. Missourian, July 30, 2009.

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