Alcohol Use: Harm Reduction

Do I need to cut down?

If you think you might be drinking too much, it's a good idea to take a look at your drinking patterns. Most students only need to reduce their drinking to safer levels; however, some people have more serious problems. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you often do things that you regret when you're drinking?

  • Does your drinking worry your family or friends?

  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?

  • Do you often forget what you did while you were drinking?

  • Do you drink alone or because you feel angry or sad?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, alcohol may be a problem in your life. For a more in-depth set of questions about your drinking patterns, you can go to the page on recognizing a problem. If you are a Brown student, you can also have a free and confidential appointment at Health Education (401.863-2794) to help you evaluate your drinking further and make a plan to change, or you can get help from other resources at Brown and in Providence. 

Do's and don'ts for cutting down

  • Do formulate a mission statement. Why is it you want to cut down or stop your drinking? Whether it's to help you focus on academics, to feel healthier or to stop getting into fights with your family, write down your reasons. Put the list someplace where you will be reminded, like your refrigerator or your wallet. It will help you take the challenge more seriously.

  • Don't go out with people who make you feel uncomfortable if you're not drinking. If you ever feel as though you could be easily persuaded to drink, make alternate plans with friends who are less inclined to drink or pressure you to drink.

  • Do set a liquor limit. Telling yourself you will not drink during the week, or that you'll have no more than 2 drinks a day, will get your mind set not to exceed your maximum.

  • Don't guzzle. When you are drinking, take breaks between drinks. Drinking quickly can mean that it all hits you at once.. Avoid drinking games because you'll end up drinking more alcohol more quickly than your body can handle.

  • Do alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic drinks, like soda or juice.

  • Don't keep alcohol in your room or apartment. It'll be easier to resist if it simply isn't there.

  • Do take a vacation from drinking. Notice how good you feel, physically and emotionally, during that time. If you don't start to feel better, you may have a problem. You can get help from these resources.

  • Do keep a drinking diary. Write down how many drinks you consume over a month-long period and how much it costs you. When you realize how much money you're sinking on drinking, it might give you incentive to cut down even more.

  • Do save the cash you don't waste on alcohol. Whenever you refuse an alcoholic beverage, put the amount of money you saved in a jar. You can put your dollars toward spring break, dinner with friends or some new clothes.

  • Do eat before you start consuming any alcohol, and continue to snack while you drink. Eating while you drink slows down how quickly you get drunk.

  • Don't go to places where you'll be bored if you're not drinking or where you'll feel socially uneasy if you don't have a drink in your hand.

  • Do stay active: What would you like to do instead of drinking? Use the time and money spent on drinking to do something fun with your friends. Go out to eat, see a movie, play sports or a game.

  • Don't drink when you are angry or upset or have a bad day. Find other ways to relax and handle the stress. 

How to hang out with drinkers when you're not drinking

It can be tough to socialize with people when they're getting drunk and you're not. Sometimes you may have to go home early to get away from heavy drinking, or stay away from the party altogether. But if you are in the mood to hang out, here's what to do so you don't feel pressured to drink. The simplest thing to do is to tell anyone who asks that you aren't drinking. You can also make your own drinks without alcohol, volunteer to be the designated driver or order non-alcoholic drinks at a bar. 

Related Links

College Drinking: Changing the Culture
Click on the section for students to find out about myths and facts, take an interactive tour of the flow of alcohol through the body or learn about alcohol poisoning. You can use the Calorie Counter to learn about the number of calories in different drinks and you can send an eCard to someone who's drinking worries you.

The Blood Alcohol Calculator
Learn how gender, body weight, food and how fast you drink can affect your blood alcohol concentration. This is an interactive tool that shows you how much alcohol is in different drinks and how your BAC would compare to friends.

e-CHUG is a free, anonymous assessment tool that provides individualized feedback on the role alcohol is playing in your life. You can also see how your use compares with other college students. If you are a Brown student and would like to talk to someone about your use, you can call Health Promotion at 401.863-2794 for a confidential appointment or clickhere for other resources.

Online Alcohol Screening
This anonymous survey gives you feedback about the likely risks of your alcohol use.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
NIAAA publishes research on many aspects of alcohol, answers frequently asked questions and provides pamphlets and brochures. The research papers and reports can be downloaded.

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