Skip to main content

Facts for Jacks: Substance Use Prevention & Education

To Drink or Not to Drink

Rethinking Drinking, Quantity and Patterns:

What’s a “standard” drink?

Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a drink. In the United States, a “standard” drink is any drink that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of “pure” alcohol. Although the drinks below are different sizes, each contains approximately the same amount of alcohol and counts as a single standard drink.

12 fl. oz. of
regular beer 
 8–9 fl. oz. of
malt liquor
 5 fl. oz. of
table wine
 1.5 fl. oz. shot of
80-proof spirits
A 12 fluid ounce can of beer has roughly 5% alcohol.
An 8 to 9 fluid ounce of malt liquor has roughly 7% alcohol.
A 5 ounce glass of table wine has roughly 12% alcohol.
Finally, a 1.5 ounce short of 80-proof spirits has about 40% alcohol in it.
about 5%
about 7%
about 12%
about 40%

The percent of pure alcohol, expressed here as alcohol by volume (alc/vol), varies by beverage. Image provided by NIAAA, Rethinking Drinking:

Think about what you drink and consider:

  1. On any given day do you ever have more than 4 standard drinks (for men) or more than 3 standard drinks (for women)?
  2. During your typical week, on average, how many days per week do you drink alcohol? Or on a typical drinking day, how many drinks do you have?

Average Number of Days You Drink MULTIPLIED By How Many Drinks You Have (Typical Day) = Your Weekly Average

For some individuals, even drinking “a little” can be too much or not a good choice.

Risky Drinking:

  1. If you're under 21 and drinking, you're risking:
    • College Career
    • Your Current or Future Job
    • Health
    • Your or Others' Safety
    • Legal consequences, etc.
  2. When you are feeling tipsy, out-of-control, or "just not right," it's time to stop or say no. We'll tell you some strategies soon...

Know that how much you drink on any given day and how often you have those “heavy drinking days” matters. This could look like one drink for some or more four drinks a day for men and three drinks a day for women. Women’s risks can differ from men’s simply because of physical stature—alcohol disperses through body water and women have less water in their bodies than men. While a woman may match a guy pound for pound, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) may be higher.

Avoid alcohol if you are:

  • Planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery.
  • Taking prescribed medications that interact with alcohol.
  • Managing a medical issue that can worsen with drinking.
  • Pregnant or are trying to become pregnant.
  • Taking a controlled substance or a recreational drug.

What's the Big Deal?

According to research with the NIAAA, alcohol is a factor in:

  • 90% of sexual assaults.
  • 60% of fatal burn injuries, drownings and homicides.
  • 50% of severe trauma injuries.
  • 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides and fatal falls.

Those who use substances may find themselves struggling with liver or heart disease; sleeping troubles; mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or paranoia; or sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, etc.

Birth Defects:
For those who may be pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, drinking during pregnancy may cause brain damage and other significant problems for the child.

If your family line has a history of drinking, and more importantly significant abuse, understand that you might be at risk for developing alcohol use disorders.

Getting a DUI is expensive and it only gets more expensive as you get them. You can lose your ability to drive, professional licensing, etc.