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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

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Play it safe this summer and be mindful of alcohol’s effects on the body

Summer is a season of sunny days, vacations, and outdoor activities, such as backyard gatherings, swimming, and hiking. Summer activities and events may involve alcohol, so it’s important to understand the risks

Alcohol can impair a person’s ability to perceive and respond to changes in their environment. This is particularly a concern in situations that require attention and coordination, such as driving a car or piloting a boat. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol consumption contributes to 18% of boating deaths in which the primary cause is known, making alcohol the leading known contributor of fatal boating accidents.1

Alcohol can also lead to poor decision making and lack of self-control, which can bring out a person’s inner risk taker. This can make any activity more dangerous, especially water-related activities. For example, swimmers may misjudge their strength or stamina and get too far from shore. Impaired judgment may also lead them to dive into dangerously shallow water at the pool, in lakes or rivers. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 31% of all drownings involve blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of 0.10% or higher.2 

In addition, alcohol disrupts activity in brain areas that coordinate and control muscle movements. This disruption can impair balance and cause difficulty in activities like walking and biking, which can result in falls and other injuries.

For adults who decide to drink, staying within the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 reduces some of the risks associated with consuming alcohol. The dietary guidelines provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and prevent disease. The guidelines recommend that women who choose to drink limit their alcohol intake to 1 drink or less, and men who chose to drink limit their intake to 2 drinks or less—on any single day, not on average. There are some people who should avoid alcohol completely, such as women who are pregnant or might become pregnant and individuals taking medications that interact with alcohol.

For tools and tips to help play it safe this summer, see these NIAAA resources:

Keep in mind that there is no perfectly safe level of alcohol consumption. Research points to health risks, including cancer and cardiovascular risks, even at low levels of alcohol intake, regardless of the type of beverage. It’s a good idea to periodically evaluate your relationship with alcohol. If you are actually feeling better or having more fun and energy for summer activities when not drinking, then listen to your body. It is trying to tell you something. 

Best wishes, 
George F. Koob, Ph.D. 
NIAAA Director 


1 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard. 2020 Recreational boating statistics. [cited 2023 May 30]. Available from: 

2 Alpert HR, Slater ME, Yoon Y, Chen CM, Winstanley N, Esser MB. Alcohol consumption and 15 causes of fatal injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2022 Aug;63(2):286–300. Epub 2022 May 15. PubMed PMID: 35581102


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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