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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

College Alcohol 101: How Big Is 1 Drink?

Many College Students -- and Probably Other Adults -- Don’t Know
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Better Grasp About Beer continued...

It wasn't that the students were totally clueless. Some asked if they should pour "regular drinks" or "college-student drinks," says White.

"They were surprised at their own behavior, not the issue in general."

Drink size and concentration of alcohol both matter, says White.

"It can't just be done by ounces," he says. "Who in their right mind is doing math in a bar all night? Alcohol and math do not go together. I drink; I'm not a neo-prohibitionist."

White favors putting serving-size information on alcoholic drinks. "It would be a piece of cake to put on the side of a wine bottle demarcations between servings," he says. "A source of frustration for me is to walk down aisle 10 [at the grocery store] and grape juice bottles have serving sizes. Walk down aisle 11, and wine does not have serving sizes."

Alcohol makers do include warning labels about safe, lawful, and responsible use of alcohol. But serving information is not required on packaging.

WebMD contacted the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. In an emailed statement, Monica Gourovitch, the council's senior vice president of scientific affairs, tells WebMD that government agencies and public health organizations teach the public about the alcoholic content and standard sizes of drinks.

"Understanding alcohol equivalence is an important part of responsible drinking," says Gourovitch's statement. "There are many ways to convey this important scientific fact including the option of putting the information on product labels or the packaging. Current government regulations do not provide for a statement of the standard drink definition."

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