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How to safely drink alcohol

Sep. 6, 2017
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I’m reluctant to quote the title of a Justin Bieber song, but there’s a lot of truth in the old adage never say never. The law says—and science confirms—that drinking before you’re 21 is a really, really bad idea, and when we’re little kids, we tend to take that to heart. But things happen, and we get older, and before we know it we’re in a dorm room—or a frat house—or our best friend’s mom’s basement—staring down a 30-rack of the cheapest, nastiest beer they sell at the supermarket. 

As you get older, it’s likely you’ll readjust your personal standards and what you deem to be acceptable behavior. There’s also a good chance you’ll find yourself in a situation that will surprise or even disappoint your younger self, and this is totally normal too. Although you can’t predict the future (wouldn’t that be an amazing skill to have, by the way?), you can try your best to prepare for it. If you find ever yourself in a situation where drinking is involved, it’s incredibly important you keep yourself safe first and foremost. You’re irreplaceable, remember? With these thoughts in mind, here’s how to drink safely.

Pace Yourself & Drink In Moderation

There’s a really old saying: Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never fear. Spoiler alert—this tired myth isn’t true. Despite what you may have heard, switching between liquor and beer won’t make you sick. What will do damage, however, is consuming a ton of alcohol during a night out or downing multiple drinks in a short span of time. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking occurs when a woman consumes four or more drinks on a single occasion and a when a man consumes five or more drinks in one session. It’s a great statistic to keep in mind when you’re out, and it will prevent you from going overboard. As for pacing yourself, it’s always a good rule of thumb to take it slow. There’s no prize for being a ridiculously fast drinker, so make sure there’s a sizeable chunk of time between your drinks.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Water is your friend. Repeat after me: Water is my friend. Adequate hydration is so important when you’re drinking, especially if you’re at an outdoor festival or a crowded concert venue. Try to remember that your body is essentially its own delicate ecosystem, and that it requires a lot of care and self-love. If you forego water while drinking, your body won’t be able to keep up. It’s possible you’ll pass out, vomit, or face other unpleasant consequences if you decide to skip water. Also, it’s important to note that some good ol’ H2O will help to mitigate booze’s more unpleasant effects, and you’ll be less likely to endure a nasty hangover as a result. The bottom line? Please, please, please drink lots of water while consuming alcohol.

Keep A Trusted Friend Close

A good friend is beyond invaluable, and you’ll be reminded of this fact time and time again throughout your life. Friends pick us up when we’re down (sometimes literally, especially if someone’s had too much to drink), and we can trust them to take care of us if things get out of hand. If you’re the type of person to lose control of your motor skills after one drink, then it’s best you bring a trusted BFF to the next event where drinking might be involved. If you have no one to lean on at the present moment, be your own best friend. Before you go out, write down a message with helpful reminders (curfew time, emergency contact info, etc.), and then text it to yourself so that you can’t lose or accidentally erase it. You can then set an alarm reminding yourself to read the text while you’re out. 

Watch Your Drink At All Times

I can’t stress this tip enough, especially since predators are always finding new and disturbing ways to drug drinks. Although it might seem difficult to keep tabs on your drink at all times, it’s totally doable and 100 percent necessary. If you have to pee, take your drink with you or hand it off to a trusted friend. No, taking your drink to the bathroom isn’t ultra-glamorous (or even particularly sanitary), but it could save your life or prevent you from falling prey to a dangerous situation. Being a tad inconvenienced is way better than the alternative here. If you’re really concerned about spiked drinks, stick to bottles of beer or other contained liquids. Punch bowls or other shared containers should be avoided.

Know When To Stop

This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you. An enjoyable buzz can morph into a blackout very quickly, and it can be hard to tell when you’re on the brink of a bad situation when your judgment is impaired. If you struggle with limits and are inclined to be impulsive, ask a friend to give you a heads up when you begin to act out of character. A distinct change in personality is a sign that you’re about to cross the threshold from buzzed to wasted. This rule of thumb is especially true if you’re a quiet or shy person like me. We’re generally not the type of people to initiate a bangin’ dance party or late-night karaoke session, right? If you’re suddenly feeling super outgoing, you know it’s time to quit while you’re ahead. Your body will thank you in the morning, I swear. 

Most articles about safe drinking can take on a doomsday tone, and that can be scary. Underage drinking is never a great idea, but having a beer every once in awhile (y’know, strictly hypothetically) probably isn’t going to kill you. As long as you respect your body and set reasonable limitations for yourself, you should be totally OK.