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Tip 14:          Low-Risk Drinking

I have heard the term “low-risk drinking” used a lot around my campus. What does it mean?  Isn’t drinking always risky?

Carole J.,   Oregon State University, Freshman

I have watched many people drink and have a great time and yet I see others that always seem to get into trouble when they drink.  How can I drink and not deal with the problems that these drinkers face?

Krystal C.,   Oregon State University, Sophomore


Krystal, you can learn to control your drinking by focusing on its pleasurable effects and not over doing it.  The most pleasurable effects of alcohol tend to occur at a Blood Alcohol Level of about .05%.  At this level, tension is reduced, relaxation is enhanced and inhibitions are a bit lower. Some people find these effects so rewarding they continue to drink with the hope that the positive results will continue to increase. Unfortunately as the BAL rises above .05% the risk increases for a host of negative effects, such as less emotional control, poor coordination, impaired judgment, hangovers and obnoxious behavior.


By concentrating on the initial pleasurable effects experienced at a BAL of .05% you will enjoy alcohol more so. There is a Drink/Weight Index Chart in the Appendix of this book that will assist you in knowing what drinking pattern will help you maintain a BAL of .05% or thereabouts. Remember though, other factors could contribute to an increased risk for impairment problems even at a .05% BAL. (See Tip #11: HALT)


If you are mathematically challenged like I am Krystal and the chart is just too much of a pain to deal with, then following the guidelines in  “Know the Code 0-1-2-3” really simplifies things. (See Tip #13: Know the Code)


Because purchasing and/or consuming alcohol is illegal for anyone under 21 years of age, it is always a high-risk legal choice for someone under 21 to drink.  An arrest record could severely impact certification, licensure and future employment for a variety of professions.  Many well-paying positions with excellent fringe benefits in federal and state governmental agencies require security background checks.  An arrest record might make a difference in whether an applicant is selected.  Also, it is not unusual for a graduate school to contact an applicant’s undergraduate campus to see if there have been conduct issues.


If you drink, staying at a Blood Alcohol Level of .05% will minimize your risk for impairment problems while maximizing the pleasurable effects of alcohol.

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