Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

Healthy Choices:
Drinking, Moderation, and Abstinence

"Wellness" is about increasing healthy habits and reducing unhealthy ones. Many people say they use alcohol or other drugs to "feel good." Let's consider some reasons we may have for drinking, and for not drinking:

Positive aspects of drinking

  • socializing
  • relaxing
  • fitting in
  • having fun


Negative aspects of drinking

  • losing control
  • getting sick
  • gaining weight
  • having accidents


Making healthy choices for feeling good means learning what is healthy for us, and avoiding the unhealthy things we don't want. If your choices include drinking alcohol, think about drinking safely to avoid any negative consequences.

Drinking safely

Most of the harmful effects of alcohol come from drinking too much. How much is too much? That varies with age, sex, size, how tired we are, and what we've had to eat, previous drinking experience, and genetics.

One common guideline is to limit yourself to one drink an hour, because that is the average rate at which our bodies absorb alcohol. However, people who weigh less or are unaccustomed to drinking are more likely to be noticeably impaired even when drinking at this rate. When we start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or less coordinated, we are already impaired and at risk of injuring ourselves or others.

Here are some ways to enjoy a drink without its negative effects:

  • Know your family history.  Children with one alcoholic parent have 40% increased rate of becoming an alcoholic, two parents increases your risk to 60-80%. 
  • Eat first (not just while drinking), foods with protein work best
  • Drink slowly, try alternating with non-alcoholic drinks
  • Know your “magic number” of drinks (number where safe and still feel good effects of alcohol) and stick to it!!
  • Be aware of your reasons for drinking and avoid drinking to cover up negative emotions or to relieve stress.  Not learning to cope with negative feelings and stressors now can limit your future abilities to form positive relationships and deal with life’s ups and downs. 

A "drink" is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. These all contain the same amount of alcohol--your brain can't tell the difference between a beer and a shot.

Choosing not to drink

Here are some important reasons not to drink:

  • you don't want to
  • you're upset
  • you're taking other drugs and medications
  • you'll be driving, boating, or using other machinery
  • you come from an alcoholic family
  • you're pregnant
  • you're underage
  • you're a recovering alcoholic

Sometimes we may feel we are the only person at an event who isn't drinking alcohol. Choosing to drink soda over beer is not something we need to defend. If you feel awkward, you could:

  • be with a friend who also is not drinking alcohol
  • be the designated driver
  • drink from a similar container (juice and soda can come in cups, bottles, and cans too)
  • tell people you're on a "health kick"
  • if you feel harassed for your choices, you can always leave; you deserve better than to be around people who don't respect your choices
  • remember that a third of the population doesn't drink alcohol!

Help Is Available

If you are concerned about your own or a friend's drinking behavior, please do not hesitate to contact the following resources:

On Campus:
Counseling Center    554-4172
Health Center          554-4501
Wellness Center       554-4409

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