Drink Smart

Tips to reduce risks when drinking

Before deciding to drink, you should know the laws in effect where you are. If you are on or near campus, know that that New Jersey law (pdf) and University policy prohibits the purchasing, serving, and consumption of alcohol by and to people under 21.

If you're planning on drinking, reduce the negative effects of drinking too much by staying in the "Green Zone"—a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of under 0.06. Check out this video for another way to learn what happens to different body systems as BAC increases.

If you'll need to get home off-campus, make sure someone who is sober is driving or be prepared to use alternative transportation (e.g. mass transit, Uber or Lyft). If you need to get around The Street and campus, check to track the late night bus is available.

If you keep your BAC below 0.06:

  • Alcohol can produce a pleasant effect. You may experience improvements in mood, decreased anxiety, and increased sociability.
  • Your functioning won't be significantly impaired. You may begin to experience impaired fine muscle coordination and a shortened attention span.
  • Your sleep won't be impaired.
  • Your work, academic, or athletic performance will be better for the two to three days after you drink, compared to if you drank heavily.

Keep your BAC below 0.06 using these tips:


Know your limit

Before you drink, calculate what the effect of different numbers of different drinks over different amounts of time will be on your BAC.

  • You’ll know about how many drinks you can have over how much time and stay at a BAC below 0.06.  Once you know all this, you can make a plan for the night.
  • If you're looking for quick info, use the Princeton UMatter Now website

Remember that BAC calculators aren’t exact tools. Most BAC calculators ask for biological sex, a consequence of most research on the physiological factors affecting BAC being conducted with cisgender men and women.  Just remember that the effects of alcohol vary significantly and your BAC depends on many factors, such as:

  • size and body composition
  • interactions with medications and other drug use
  • genetics
  • how much you've eaten
  • hydration
  • how fast you drink


Food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and helps prevent a sudden increase in BAC.

  • Eat a full meal before drinking, but not so far ahead that the food is no longer in your stomach. Carbs will especially help.
  • Snack on non-salty foods while drinking to continue to slow the absorption.
  • Create a buddy system to remind each other to eat.


Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (preferably water).

  • Try to avoid caffeine because it further dehydrates you.
  • Hydrating helps to mitigate the negative effects of alcohol that give you a hangover.
  • Be a good friend: when you’re getting water, grab an extra cup for someone else if you're in a situation where you can.


Your body can process one standard drink per hour.

  • Follow the one-in-one rule— try to drink one drink per hour.
  • Keep track of the number of drinks you've had and the amount of time between drinks.
  • You can keep a tally on your phone or use an app. By keeping count, you’ll know when you’ve reached your limit.  
  • Use a buddy system to help keep track.
  • Avoid drinking games, even virtual ones, since they encourage drinking too much too fast.

Measure your drinks, so you know exactly how much you’re drinking per drink.

  • Avoid pre-mixed drinks—you never know how much alcohol has been added.  
  • When making your own mixed drinks, make sure you know how many servings of alcohol you are putting in each drink.
  • Use clean shot glasses to measure out shots.  
  • Know the size of the cup you are using.
  • Memorize these pictures to know how much alcohol is in standard drinks:
Standard drink sizes


More tricks

Drink less (or avoid drinking) when you are exhausted.

  • Exhaustion magnifies the effect of alcohol on the body.  
  • For Princeton undergraduates, the highest number of alcohol-related visits to McCosh in past years were often seen after periods of high academic stress, such as midterms or Dean's Date - an indication that stress and exhaustion amplify the negative effects of drinking too much.

Support someone's choice not to drink.  Don’t ask someone else what’s in their cup or why they aren’t drinking. If you know someone is drinking, remind them to keep track and pace themselves and avoid cheering them on or encouraging them to start or join a drinking game. 


If you stay in the Green Zone, you’re less likely to have a hangover the next day. Check out this video for why that’s so.