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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

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Alcohol and Summer - Think Before You Drink

View of a beach boardwalk and summer sky

Summer is a time for fun in the sun, vacations, and spending time with family and friends at parties and barbecues. For some people, summer activities involve drinking alcoholic beverages, so play it safe this summer and be mindful of your alcohol consumption.  

Alcohol impairs both physical and mental abilities while also decreasing inhibitions—leading to poor decision making. When combined with popular activities like swimming, boating, and traveling, these elements can come together in a “perfect summer storm” and can lead to tragic consequences.  

Drinking alcohol is especially risky when a person engages in activities near or in the water. Up to 70 percent of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of any alcohol. Because alcohol impairs judgement, it can bring out the risk-taker in us. Swimmers may misjudge their strength and encounter problems by venturing out too far from shore, or they may misjudge the temperature of the water and develop hypothermia. At the pool, intoxicated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive into water that is too shallow.  

Boating under the influence of alcohol also carries risk of injury, but people may not take drinking and boating as seriously as drinking and driving. But according to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60 percent of boating fatalities may involve alcohol, including falling overboard. A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent (approximately 4 to 5 drinks in about an hour) is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. Alcohol can impair boaters’ judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time, and it can make them more tired. Inebriated passengers are at risk of slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.

Finally, staying hydrated is important for safe summer activities. Alcohol is a diuretic and when combined with increased sweating in the heat and sun it can lead to dehydration and heat stroke.

Remember, you can have fun in the sun and still be safe. Avoiding alcoholic beverages while piloting a boat, driving a car, exploring the wilderness, and swimming or surfing is a good place to start.  And if you are hosting a party or gathering, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to your guests.

Also, keep in mind that not all alcoholic drinks are created equal. Some popular summer drinks contain more than one serving of alcohol. Meanwhile, if you overpour a glass of wine or add more alcohol into a mixed drink than the recipe calls for, these drinks may be stronger than you realize. NIAAA’s alcohol calculators can help you assess the number of standard drinks in each cocktail and help predict blood alcohol levels and calories. The calculators are available at

Think before you drink to help ensure you and your loved ones enjoy many summers to come.

Have a safe and fun summer, GFK

Need Help for an Alcohol Problem?

If you’re having an emergency, call 911. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to help you through this difficult time.

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator can help you recognize and find high quality treatment for alcohol use disorder. If you drink excessively, seek medical help to plan a safe recovery as sudden abstinence can be life threatening. NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking can help you assess your drinking habits and provides information to help you cut back or stop drinking.

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