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Gordie Center

for Substance Abuse Prevention

Safer Drinking Guidelines

UVA Safer Drinking Guidelines Brochure

> Download Our Safer Drinking Guidelines Brochure

Stay in the Golden Zone

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is the percentage of alcohol in your blood. The Golden Zone refers to BACs below .05. Keeping your BAC below .05 maximizes the positive effects of alcohol while minimizing the risk of negative outcomes.

The peak high or buzz a person feels from alcohol is reached at BACs between .02 and .06.

Judgment and reaction skills are impaired at BACs of .05 and above. Reaching a BAC of .05 or higher is more likely to result in adverse consequences.

Safer drinking means staying in the Golden Zone by keeping your BAC below .05.

Tips for a Lower BAC

Pace & space - Sip your drink instead of chugging, alternate with water or soda, and have no more than 1 drink/hour. On average, it takes nearly 3 hours for most people to eliminate the alcohol in 2 standard drinks.

Eat before and while drinking - Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly when there is food (especially protein) in your stomach.

Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs - Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs (e.g. antihistamines, sedatives) can increase alcohol’s effects. Caffeine and other stimulants can trick you into feeling less impaired.

Use caution when sick or tired - When you’re sleep deprived or ill, alcohol enters the body more quickly.

Safer Drinking Guidelines

0 drinks is the only safe choice for people in certain higher-risk situations—for example when driving, pregnant, taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications, or with health conditions such as alcoholism. Consuming alcohol under the age of 21 can lead to legal consequences.(1)

No more than 1 drink per hour. On average, it takes nearly 3 hours for most people to eliminate the alcohol in 2 standard drinks.(2)

Women’s guidelines

  • No more than 2 drinks on any one day(3)
  • No more than 7 drinks per week (3)

Men’s guidelines

  • No more than 3 drinks in any 1 day(3)
  • No more than 14 drinks per week(3)

If a man and a woman of the same height and weight consume the same amount of alcohol over the same period of time, the woman will have a higher BAC.

(1) Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Available online at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/
(2) National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Available online at http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeStudents/alcoholMyths.aspx#
(3) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2006) Young Adult Drinking. Alcohol Alert, No. 68. Available online at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa68/aa68.htm