The UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program acknowledges that
abstinence from alcohol is the
only no-risk alternative and the only legal option for those
under 21 years of age.
At the same time, the program believes that underage college
students who choose
to drink should learn to do so with the least risk and harm
What kind of substance is alcohol?
Alcohol is classified as a depressant because it slows down
the central nervous
system, causing a decrease in motor coordination, reaction
time and intellectual
performance. At high doses, the respiratory system slows
down drastically and can
cause a coma or death.
What we see at UCSB:
- Alcohol is the “drug of choice” in college.
- About 20% of UCSB students report abstaining from
substance use so approximately
half of our students either don’t drink or choose to
drink in moderation when they
- High risk drinking puts students at greater risk for
negative consequences such
as blackouts, injuries, driving under the influence,
diminished academic performance,
sexual assault, and unplanned and unprotected sex.
Why do people drink?
A group of students were asked this question as part of a
national college alcohol
study in 2001. Among the students who drink, here are the
most common responses:
- To have a good time with friends -- 91%
- To celebrate -- 90%
- To relax or relieve tension -- 74%
- Because they like the taste -- 69%
Not surprisingly, no one who chooses to drink intends to get
arrested or end up
in the emergency room. Most people enjoy drinking because of
the pleasant effects
that occur within the first few drinks. So if you choose to
drink, know your limits,
trust your surroundings and be educated about the risks
involved in any kind of
Consider how often things happen that you DON'T
intend and then ask yourself
what you can do to make safer choices!!
How does alcohol move through the body?
Once swallowed, a drink enters the stomach and small
intestine, where small blood
vessels carry it to the bloodstream. Approximately 20% of
alcohol is absorbed through
the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed
through the small intestine.
Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, where enzymes break
down the alcohol. In general,
the liver can process one ounce of liquor (or one standard
drink) in one hour. If
you consume more than this, your system becomes saturated,
and the additional alcohol
will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can
be metabolized. Very
small amounts of alcohol are excreted via lungs, sweat and
urine (2-5%). This is
why pounding shots or playing drinking games can result in
high blood alcohol concentrations
that last for several hours.
What are some common effects of drinking alcohol?
Alcohol may: **
- Cause mood swings.
- Make you less patient.
- Give you a false sense of confidence.
- Make you more aggressive.
- Impede your ability to make responsible decisions.
- Make you less cautious
Alcohol may impair: **
- Muscle coordination
- Sense of touch
- Sense of Control
- Your ability to react and form judgments
- Vision by decreasing:
- Peripheral (side) vision.
- frontal vision and focusing
- ability to recover from glare
- number and speed of scans
- depth perception
- color sensitivity
**These effects increase substantially when alcohol is
combined with other drugs**
What are the short-term risks of drinking?
When you're drinking, one of the first things to go is your
judgment. So, celebrating
or having fun with friends can quickly turn into
embarrassing yourself, getting
hurt, throwing up or nursing a hangover. These statistics
show the very real risks
of drinking in college:
- 70% of college students admit to engaging in unplanned
sexual activity primarily
as a result of drinking or to having sex they wouldn't
have had if they had been
- At least 1 out of 5 college students abandons safer sex
practices when they're drunk,
even if they do protect themselves when they're sober.
- Heavy drinkers consistently have lower grades.
- One night of heavy drinking can impair your ability to
think abstractly and grasp
difficult concepts for as long as a month.
What is the difference between a blackout and passing out?
"Blackouts" (sometimes referred to as alcohol-related memory
loss or "alcoholic
amnesia") occur when people have no memory of what happened
while intoxicated. These
periods may last from a few hours to several days. During a
blackout, someone may
appear fine to others; however, the next day they cannot
remember parts of the night
and what they did. The cause of blackouts is not well
understood but may involve
the brain’s diminished ability to store short term memory,
deep seizures, or in
some cases, psychological depression.
Blackouts shouldn't be confused with "passing out," which
happens when people lose
consciousness from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Losing consciousness means
that the person has reached a very dangerous level of
intoxication and could slip
into a coma. If someone has passed out, seek help
immediately for emergency medical
What is a hangover and can I prevent it?
Hangovers are evidence of the body’s withdrawal symptoms
from alcohol use and the
body's reaction to the toxicity of alcohol. The severity of
symptoms varies according
to the individual and the quantity of alcohol consumed.
Symptoms may include:
There are many myths about how to prevent or alleviate
hangovers, and people try
many different approaches to relieve the effects of "the
The only safe way to prevent a hangover is to drink in
- Eat a good dinner and continue to snack throughout the
- Alternate one alcoholic drink with one non-alcoholic
- Avoid drinking games or shots. Drinking a large amount
of alcohol in a short amount
of time is the most likely way to become dangerously
Here are some of the things that WON'T help a hangover:
- Drinking a little more alcohol the next day. This simply
puts more alcohol in your
body and prolongs the effects of the alcohol
- Having caffeine while drinking will not counteract the
intoxication of alcohol;
you simply get a more alert drunk person. Excessive
caffeine will continue to lower
your blood sugar and dehydrate you even more than
- Giving water to someone who is throwing up. Once the
stomach is irritated enough
to cause vomiting, it doesn't matter what you put into
it -- it's going to come
back up. Any liquid will cause a spasm reaction and more
- Be advised about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a
hangover headache. When the
body has to process both alcohol and acetaminophen, it
may produce substances that
are toxic to the liver.
Here are some things that MIGHT help a hangover:
- When you wake up, it's important to eat a healthy meal.
Processing alcohol causes
a drop in blood sugar and can contribute to headaches.
Drink plenty of water and juice to get re-hydrated.
- Avoid excessive caffeine as it may contribute to
dehydration. However, if you drink
coffee every morning, have your first cup not more
than a couple of hours after
your regular time. Don't force your body to go
through caffeine withdrawal in addition
to alcohol withdrawal.
- An over-the-counter antacid (Tums, Pepto Bismol or
Maalox) may relieve some of the
symptoms of an upset stomach.
- Do not go too many hours without food as this will
increase the effect of the low
blood sugar caused by alcohol.
- Eat complex carbohydrates like crackers, bagels,
bread, cereal or pasta.