Alcohol is a traditionally legal drug that depresses the nervous system, coordination, and your ability to react quickly. The majority of Columbia students are smart, safe, and responsible and choose to consume alcohol is a low risk manner by engaging in protective behaviors. In fact, 98% of Columbia University students report using one or more of the protective behaviors most of the time or always.*

*Data from Columbia University Morningside ACHA-NCHA Spring 2015

At Columbia:

  1. Most students use alcohol in a lower-risk manner
  2. Students call for help if they are concerned someone drank too much
  3. We talk openly about alcohol and other drug issues
  4. It’s OUR community; we have a shared responsibility and set the example to be smart, safe, and responsible

Responsible Community @ Columbia (RC@C)

When students arrive on campus for the new student orientation program they will take part in our Responsible Community @ Columbia program. This peer-facilitated session allows for an honest dialogue about alcohol and other drugs while establishing social norms and supporting a community of smart, safe, and responsible decision-making.

Specifically, the session aims to:

  • Challenge students’ misperceptions about alcohol and other drugs
  • Focus the conversation on lower-risk behaviors
  • Describe the impact that drinking has on the broader community
  • Provide life-skills training
  • Discuss how negative consequences are avoidable

In addition to the session during new student orientation, RC@C provides alcohol and other drug-related information, resources, and support year-round to all students. Student groups may request to take part in Responsible Event Host Trainings and Resident Assistants can apply for RC@C mini-grants.

Like RC@C on Facebook for more information.

Interested in becoming an RC@C facilitator? Visit the Get Involved page for more information.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Once alcohol is consumed it is quickly absorbed into the blood stream. Blood alcohol content (BAC) is the measure of the amount of alcohol in the blood stream. BAC is expressed as units of mass of alcohol per volume of blood. For example, a BAC of 0.10 means that there is one part alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood.

BAC can be impacted by a number of factors including:

  • Sex assigned at birth
  • Body weight
  • Type of alcohol
  • Full/empty stomach
  • Speed of consumption
  • Time spent drinking
  • Use of medication or other drugs

The more you drink, the more your BAC rises. As your BAC increases, so do the risks to your health. For example, a BAC of:

  • 0.05 = feelings of warmth and relaxation, emotions are intensified, lowered inhibitions
  • 0.08 = impairment of speech, balance, vision, and reaction time; illegal to drive at this level
  • 0.12 = vomiting, motor skills are impaired, increased aggression

Protective Behaviors

How can you make lower-risk choices if choosing to drink alcohol? Try some of the following strategies:

  • Space your drinks to one of fewer per hour
  • Eat before you start drinking
  • Alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic beverages
  • Limit your number of drinks on an occasion to less than 5 for men and 4 for women
  • Drink an alcohol look-alike,  juice, or water
  • Stop drinking two hours before leaving an event
  • Limit the amount of money you bring along to reduce your number of drinks
  • Stay with the same group of friends the entire time you are drinking
  • Avoid drinking games and taking shots
  • Determine in advance not to exceed a set number of drinks
  • Pay attention to how intoxicated you are before having another drink
  • Make sure you never leave your drink unattended and if you leave a drink somewhere, just get a new one
  • Only accept drinks from people you know or if you can see them pouring the drink

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol depresses the nervous system and affects one’s ability to breathe or prevent choking through the gag reflex. High levels of alcohol can stop these functions. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol is in their system and can be fatal. If you see someone experiencing the following symptoms, call for help immediately:

  • Mental confusion
  • Semi-consciousness or unconsciousness and cannot be awakened
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • Slowed breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Vomiting while "sleeping" or passed out, and not waking up after vomiting

If a person has any of the above symptoms, they are most likely experiencing acute alcohol intoxication. Call for help immediately:

  •     Call (212) 854-5555 on- or near campus or 911 off-campus.
  •     Do not leave the person alone.
  •     Turn the person on their side to prevent choking in case of vomiting.
  •     Always better to be safe than sorry: How can someone be angry at you about caring for them?

Being a Responsible Member of the Columbia Community

We are a community at Columbia that takes care of one another. How can you help to make Columbia smarter, safer, and more responsible?

  • Watch for cues that indicate someone may be drinking too much
  • Recognize the factors that will impact BAC
  • Pay attention to how much alcohol the people around you drink
  • Remember that alcohol use has an impact on the broader community
  • Intervene early to help people stop or slow down and avoid problems
  • When having social events that include alcohol, offer choices other than drinking: food, non-alcohol beverages, or activities
  • Set an example by consuming alcoholic beverages responsibly
  • Discourage the misuse of alcohol, such as competitive drinking
  • Get help when a situation is beyond your control or someone needs medical attention. Call CUEMS at 212-854-5555 (on-campus) or 911 (off-campus)
  • Want more information? Request a CU Step UP! bystander intervention training for your student group or floor.

Anonymous Alcohol Self-Assessment

Interested in learning more about your own drinking? Take this short, anonymous, alcohol self-assesment to assist in understanding your use of alcohol.

Alcohol Screening and Intervention (BASICS)

BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) is designed to assist in examining a person’s drinking and other drug-use behavior in a judgment-free environment. BASICS is not an abstinence-only program. Instead, the goals are selected by the participant and are aimed at reducing risky behaviors and potential harmful consequences. Services provided through the BASICS program are non-judgmental, non-labeling, and confidential. For more information about BASICS at Columbia, visit the BASICS service page.

Campus Guidelines and Policies

Alice! Health Promotion follows the guidelines and policies set forth in Essential Policies on alcohol other drug use. In order to comply with federal, state, and city laws, and to promote the health and well-being of its community, Columbia University has enacted policies on alcohol and drugs. All students, faculty, and staff are expected to comply with these policies. Please also take note of information found in the Columbia Housing’s Guide to Living, including policies and procedures on alcohol and other drugs, the Responsible Community Action Policy, along with the laws and policies regarding hazing. Please note that guidelines and policies may vary by school. Check with your school for more information.

Have questions or want to learn more about alcohol? visit the Go Ask Alice! Alcohol archives.

You can also request an alcohol program or a Responsible Event Host Training for your student group or residence hall floor from Alice! Health Promotion.

Last updated September 08, 2016