Drinking Smart

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Even though the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s youth. Drinking ‘smart’ takes some strength because managing peer pressure is not always easy. Remember it is always your decision to control if you drink and how much you drink.

How can I be smart about drinking? We all respond to alcohol differently. If you have not had alcohol before, you might be particularly cautious because you don’t know what to expect. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking in moderation is defined as having no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.

The following are examples of standard drinks:

  • 12 oz can of beer; 
  • 5 oz glass of table wine; 
  • 1.5 oz of hard liquor. 

It may be helpful to remember that alcohol is not always served as standard drinks and this also depends on the percentage of alcohol. For more information about standard drinks check out the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Fact Sheet on the Standard Drink.

How can I keep my drinking under control? There are a number of things you can do to keep your drinking under control:

  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them;
  • Start with a non-alcoholic drink;
  • Try having a ‘spacer’. Alternate non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic drinks;
  • Drink slowly. Take sips not gulps;
  • Try a low alcohol alternative to a pre-mixed drink;
  • Eat before or while you are drinking. Avoid salty snacks as they can make you thirsty;
  • Avoid rounds or shots;
  • Have one drink at a time, so you can keep track;
  • Avoid drinking games;
  • Stay busy. Don’t just sit and drink;
  • Be assertive. Don’t give into drinking more than you want or intend to.


Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.

For more information on low risk drinking, check out the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Rethinking Drinking website.

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