Can a designated driver drink have even a little alcohol?

    Is it safe to drink a little at a party and still be a designated driver? Also, how can you recognize alcohol poisoning in a person?

    — Anonymous,

    John Muir College

    Contrary to popular belief, it is not at all safe to have a drink or two and still be the designated driver at a party. The California Blood Alcohol Concentration limit is 0.08 percent if you are over 21. If you are under 21, you cannot go over the 0.01 percent BAC level. Keep in mind that it takes about three hours to eliminate the alcohol content of two drinks, depending on your weight. Nothing can speed this process up — not even coffee or cold showers.

    “The best bet is to stick to the definition of a designated driver and not drink at all,” Lupe Samaniego-Kraus, a health educator and an alcohol, tobacco and drugs prevention coordinator at Student Health Services said. “It is so difficult to know how much you should drink before you will be drunk. There is also the factor of someone changing their minds and wanting to leave the party earlier.”

    Even having a few beers before driving can be fatal, since a 12-ounce beer has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot of 80-proof liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink) or five ounces of wine. Drinking and driving can have serious consequences, including fatal accidents or losing your license.

    Even if you are not the designated driver, it is a good idea to space out your drinks.

    “The best bet is to have one drink an hour,” Samaniego-Kraus said. “Also, try to have food as well. Spacing the drinks out with water is good, especially since alcohol causes the body to become dehydrated.”

    Excessive drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can result in death if not treated immediately. The Student Safety Awareness Program at SHS stresses that if your friend is not responsive, their skin tone is bluish or their breathing is irregular or stopped, you must take action and call 911 immediately. If your friend is passed out, but can be woken up, you should put them on their side, give them water and stay with them. In any case, do not ever leave a friend alone when they are drunk, and do not let them sleep it off.

    There are a number of services ready to answer any more alcohol-related questions you might have on campus. Visit SHS at http://studenthealth.ucsd.edu or by calling them at (858) 534-3874. If you have general questions about alcohol, visit the Student Safety Awareness Center at http://ucsd.edu/ssap, or call them at (858) 534-5793. If you had a bad experience under the influence of alcohol and need to speak to someone, call Psychological and Counseling Services at (858) 534-3755 for an appointment, or visit their Web site at http://psychservices.ucsd.edu.

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