Most students at UW-Madison choose not to participate in high risk drinking. However, for those who do engage in high-risk or excessive alcohol use, the consequences can be devastating in multiple areas of a student’s life. Alcohol abuse can lead to problems with general health and well-being, and academic problems often occur when a student is a habitual user of alcohol, especially in the freshman year. Relationships with friends and significant others are often negatively affected as well.

Alcohol is a common thread in many crimes in the campus area. A victim is never at fault, but if you choose to drink, do so in moderation to help reduce your risk.

Guidelines and Resources to avoid high-risk drinking:

  • Drinking impairs judgment and the ability to react in threatening situations. An intoxicated person is more vulnerable to injury and assault
  • Recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning and know when to call 911 (if you’re using a cellphone, give your location first). Never take a chance with a fellow student’s life
  • Set a limit in advance. Ask a friend to tell you when you’ve had enough.
  • Eat before and while drinking.
  • Avoid drinking games.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Watch your drink at all times.
  • Pace drinks to one or fewer per hour. Sip your drink — don’t gulp.
  • Don’t quench your thirst with alcoholic drinks. Alternate drinks with those without alcohol.
  • Don’t ignore a friend who has an alcohol problem. Help your friend tone it down, and consider talking to a counselor or clinician if needed.
  • Never leave a dangerously intoxicated individual alone, either at home or on the street.
  • Keep in mind that the euphoria or buzz associated with drinking is actually an effect of lower blood-alcohol content levels. Dysphoria and disorientation set in as the legal limit of 0.08 is approached and surpassed.
  • Doing shots is especially dangerous. Those who drink too much, too fast will drink past the body’s warning signals.
  • Learn more about alcohol safety and your body.
  • Check out the Wisconsin Department of Transportation blood alcohol content (BAC) calculator.
  • Take the eCHUG drinking quiz.


Hosting Parties Responsibly

Responsible Party Management Recommendations (from the Center for Leadership and Involvement website):

  • Do not use “common containers of beer” (i.e., kegs, party balls, etc.), unless at a 3rd party vendor. Alcohol served in individual servings tends to slow down consumption. Studies have shown that people tend to drink more when they are drinking from a keg vs. individual cans/bottles. There is also the tendency to overconsume as there is the “we have to finish the keg mentality” vs. simply saving bottles/cans for the next social.
  • Do not provide bulk collective homemade drinks (e.g., Wapatui). This practice is very dangerous. Participants do not know the level of alcohol in their drinks. People intending to drink responsibly do not necessarily know if they are or not.
  • Non-alcoholic beverages (besides water) should be available and if at a 3rd party vendor, less expensive than alcoholic beverages and comparable in size. Having options for non-drinkers and designated drivers lowers the risk of unsafe drinking levels. It also provides more of an opportunity for drinkers to switch from alcohol to non-alcohol alternatives.
  • Reasonable quantities of food relative to the size of the group should be provided. Food helps slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
  • Events or activities where consumption of alcohol is the purpose, consequence, or reward of the event or activity should not be allowed. It is generally acknowledged that drinking games and using alcohol as a reward can encourage over consumption in a short period of time. Drinking games are designed to have people drink when they win/lose, not when they want to.
  • Alcohol should not be used as an incentive for participating in recruitment events or as prizes in contests. When alcohol is used as an enticement, it increases the liability to the organization that is providing alcohol.


There are a number of research projects at UW-Madison that contribute to our understanding of how alcohol consumption impacts our campus and community. Below are a few projects that have contributed a great deal:

UW System Alcohol and Other Drug (AODA) Survey
Since 2005, UW System Administration conducts a campus-by-campus survey of alcohol and other drug use and consequences every two years.

American College Health Association Survey (ACHA)
Since 2006, University Health Services at UW-Madison has conducted a survey on student health behaviors every two years. This survey is a part of a part of a larger national survey from the American College Health Association.

College Health Behaviors Survey (CHB)
From 1997 to 2007, annual data on student binge drinking and negative consequences was collected as a part of the Policy Alternatives Community Education (PACE) project.

Geographic Information System (GIS) Data on Crime and Alcohol Outlets in Madison
As a part of the Policy Alternatives Community Education (PACE) project, Dr. Aaron Brower analyzed the relationship between alcohol, campus area crime, and student living areas in 2003 and 2008 using GIS.