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Help for College Students

Young woman standing outside on college campus smiling.

Your college years may be a time for experimenting and trying new things. But with this newfound freedom, it's important to make safe and smart decisions regarding alcohol and substance use, gambling, thoughts of suicide and mental health.

If you or someone you know is struggling in any of these areas, Your Life Iowa is here to help you. 

Are you a parent or university/college staff member? Our college healthcare provider toolkit can help you have conversations about mental health, substance use and problem gambling with college students. 

Call:(855) 581-8111      Text:(855) 895-8398     Live Chat

Group of young people holding red cups at a tailgate partyWhile it may seem like college culture revolves around drinking and partying, many college students don't drink. According to NSDUH data, only 15% of those 12-20 consumed alcohol in the past month. That means almost 85% of those under 21 did not drink alcohol.1 

If you are of legal drinking age, it's important to know and practice safe alcohol consumption guidelines and remember it is possible to have or develop a problem with alcohol in college. According to NSDUH, 13% of college students ages 18-22 meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.2 

Responsible Alcohol Consumption

This is for people who are 21 and older, not pregnant and who have not experienced problems with alcohol or other substances in the past. Remember to talk to your doctor if you are taking any medications that could react negatively with alcohol before consuming alcohol.

Tips for responsible alcohol consumption include:3

  • Pace yourself
    • For women: no more than 1 drink per day and no more than 7 in one week
    • For men: no more than 2 drinks in one day or 14 in one week
  • Know what you're drinking and stick to standard drink sizes
    • Avoid drinking out of jungle juices, borgs, tall boys, Four Lokos, etc.
  • Don't play drinking games
  • Avoid taking shots
  • ALWAYS eat before and drinking drinking
  • Make sure you stay hydrated and drink water
  • Do not mix drugs with alcohol (this includes marijuana and medications prescribed by your doctor)
  • NEVER drive after consuming alcohol

BAC levels

It may be common knowledge that the legal drinking limit is 0.08 BAC but what exactly does that mean and how does blood alcohol content affect your body?

Remember a person's blood alcohol content differs based on how much and how fast they drink and may be different from person to person due to factors such as height, weight and gender.

Description of mild, moderate, severe and life threatening BAC symptoms

Sources: 4,5 

Alcohol Poisoning

Over one third of college students admitted to binge drinking,2 and Iowa ranks in the top 10 states with the highest rates of underage binge drinking.6 With binge drinking being so common among college students in Iowa the risk for alcohol poisoning and overdose increases.

Alcohol poisoning is very serious and can have deadly consequences. In the United States alone it is averaged that every day 6 people die from alcohol poisoning.7 Don't think it can't happen to you or someone you know. Learn the signs and symptoms and how to respond to save a life.


Someone experiencing alcohol poisoning may have:4

  • Vomiting
  • Choking, no gag reflex
  • Dulled/slowed responses
  • Seizures
  • Slowed or irregular breathing (less than 8 breaths a minute)
  • Clammy/sweaty skin
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Unconscious
  • Hypothermia/low body temperature
  • Pale or blue skin

What to Do

If you think someone may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, you should:8,9 

How to Help a Friend - BACCHUS Maneuver (1:08)

  • Seek medical attention immediately, don't leave them to just “sleep it off” 
  • Stay with the person and monitor them
  • Prevent them from choking by sitting them upright or laying them on their side 
  • Try to keep them awake
  • Get them to drink water if they are conscious
  • Keep them warm
  • Try to recall details about the person for emergency responders (allergies, how much they drank and how fast, age etc.) 

What is a "standard drink?"


Did you know that just because you order one drink it doesn't mean that it's equivalent to drinking one standard serving of alcohol? Popular drinks that contain more than a standard drink size are:

  • Long Island = 4 standard drinks 
  • Tallboys = 1.5 - 2 standard drinks
  • Margaritas = 1.7 standard drinks 
  • 1 bottle of wine = 5 standard drinks 


Learn more about how many standard drinks are in popular cocktails.


Alcohol's Effects on Health
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) webpage titled "Harmful and Underage College Drinking." 

Rethinking Drinking
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) website on alcohol and health.

Standard Size Drink Comparison 
UCLA Police Department resource with standard drink comparisons. 


Highlights for the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

2 Alcohol's Effects on Health: Harmful and Underage College Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 

What are the U.S. guidelines for drinking? Rethinking Drinking. 

4 Alcohol's Effects on Health: Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 

5 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Cleveland Clinic. 

6 Underage Binge Drinking Varies Within and Across States. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015.

8 Alcohol Poisoning. Mayo Clinic. 

9 Alcohol Poisoning. Cleveland Clinic. 

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