Know Your Limit

A key component of a healthy relationship with alcohol is to experience its positive effects by drinking the least amount possible.

So, what is the right amount for you?

If you choose to drink, we recommend gradually reaching a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of no more than .06%. As the chart below indicates, a BAC between .01% and .06% is typically associated with feeling 'buzzed' or 'tipsy.'

Use a BAC calculator to see how much it takes to stay in the 'social zone.' Notice how sex, weight and drinking speed affect your BAC.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Inward Experience

Outward Behaviors



Slight euphoria
Sense of relaxation
Feel ‘tipsy’
Lower inhibitions
Thought process slowed
Lowered alertness
Judgment and caution reduced
Coordination slightly impaired

Loss of inhibition – more outgoing, talkative, social



Dulled sensations
Further lowering of inhibitions
Impaired sexual pleasure
Impaired depth/distance perception
Judgment and coordination increasingly impaired

Slowed reflexes
Reasoning impaired
Risk taking increases
Extroversion increases: even more talkative, louder, boisterous


Feeling fatigued
Euphoria diminishes

Severely impaired judgment and perception
Severely impaired gross motor coordination

Staggering, stumbling
Slurred speech
Slowed reaction time
Less/no visible pain response
Emotional swings or over-expression of emotions, possibly anxious or uneasy

Danger Zone


Memory blackout
Loss of understanding, comprehension
Further dulling of sensations

Stupor – no sense or sensibility
Extreme sluggishness
Inability to stand or sit upright

Unconscious/passed out/unresponsive

.30% -.39%

Unconsciousness or coma
Death possible

Unconscious/passed out/unresponsive
Slow or irregular breathing
Bluish, cold or clammy skin
Slowed heart rate
Loss of bladder function



Unconsciousness or coma
Death likely

Unconscious/passed out/unresponsive
Slow or irregular breathing
Bluish, cold or clammy skin
Slowed heart rate 

If You Choose to Drink...

Be smart!

The key to optimizing the effects of alcohol (and to reduce the chance of something regrettable happening) is to reach the 'social zone' slowly and then stay there. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Set a low-risk limit in advance. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines 'low risk' drinking as follows: For MEN, no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 per week. For WOMEN, no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 per week. Based on one's health and other factors, some people need to drink less or not at all.
  • Pace drinks to about one an hour
  • Have a plan for how to turn down (or delay) a drink
  • Keep track of the number of drinks consumed
  • Steer clear of drinking games
  • Avoid shots
  • Have a non-alcoholic beverage, like water, between drinks
  • Eat food before and while drinking
  • Hang out with people who don't make drinking the main event
  • Stick with trusted friends

If You Choose NOT to Drink...

That's ok!

Choosing not to drink is always an option. Thirty percent of NU undergraduates report they don't drink in an average week (according to a 2010 survey taken by over 1,200 undergrads. See the Real NU Party Habits page for more survey results).

Choosing not to drink might be best if you:

  • Are under 21
  • Have a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking
  • Are pregnant
  • Haven't eaten
  • Are sick, run down or tired
  • Are angry, lonely or sad
  • Are taking prescription or over-the-counter medication
  • Have consumed illicit drugs
  • Have a family history of substance abuse or dependence
  • Have an exam, presentation or athletic event the next day
  • Are going to be driving soon
  • Have religious or cultural reasons for abstaining
  • Have an allergy to alcohol
  • Just don't want to