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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

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Alcohol + Summer Equal Potentially Dangerous Consequences

Car driving near a beach

Summer is a wonderful time of year. The weather is great and school is out, so people take vacations and weekend road trips to the beach or lake, and spend time outdoors socializing with family and friends.

However, along with summer comes more complications from drinking. For example, alcohol is a factor in many boating accidents and drownings, as well as motor vehicle crashes. Alcohol not only increases the risk of accidents, but when combined with increased sweating in the heat and sun and frequent urination, drinking can lead to dehydration and heat stroke.

Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a drink, and often underestimate the amount they are really drinking. In the United States, a standard drink (also known as an alcoholic drink-equivalent) refers to about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is equal to a 12-ounce bottle of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol by volume), 5-ounce glass of wine (about 12 percent alcohol by volume), or 1.5 ounce shot of liquor or distilled spirits (about 40 percent alcohol by volume), like rum or vodka. Popular summer drinks often contain more than one standard drink. An average pina colada, for example, containing 3 ounces of rum is equal to 2 standard drinks. A mojito is equal to 1.3 standard drinks and a margarita is about 1.7 standard drinks. It is important to know what a standard drink is to manage alcohol consumption.

It is also important to understand that alcohol affects women differently than men. Not only do women weigh less than men, but pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. So, after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman's blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. And, women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men do.

To help play it safe this summer, see these resources:

  • NIAAA’s Cocktail content calculator. This interactive calculator can help you assess the number of standard drinks in a cocktail. Be aware, this calculator is only a guide. Some people may make mixed drinks stronger than typical recipes.
  • NIAAA’s Drink size calculator. Want to know how many standard drinks are in souvenir cup of beer at the ballpark? You can use this interactive calculator to look up the alcohol content of beverages in common container sizes or enter your own amounts.
  • NIAAA’s Summer Safety fact sheet. Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun highlights the dangers of combing alcohol with summer activities. This resources also provides tips on how you and your family can stay safe and healthy in the summer.
  • NIAAA’s Alcohol Overdose, Hangovers, and Blackouts fact sheets. Overindulging in alcohol can pose other complications any time of year, such as dangerous overdoses, dreaded hangovers, and confusing blackouts. NIAAA’s fact sheets on these topics provide easy-to-read information about these conditions and why they are concerning.

Share these resources with your family and friends and help keep your loved ones safe. Enjoy your summer.

Best wishes, 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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