For many college students, it is important to maintain their best academic performance for a variety of reasons. After all, who doesn’t want good grades?  Good grades will lead to good opportunities, internships, good jobs, etc.

Even a small amount of alcohol can impact your grades.

First, a definition: Binge drinking (high risk for alcohol related problems) is defined as 4 or more drinks in one drinking occasion for women and 5 or more drinks for men; where a standard drink is 12 oz 5% beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz (1 shot of 80 proof liquor)   (1).

It has been shown that, compared to those who did NOT drink alcohol, binge drinking  2 or more times in a typical 2-week period was linked to significantly lower semester grades for both the  1st year and senior level students (2 ).  Translation: binge drinking lowers grades.

Another study shows that even drinking alcohol to the point of getting drunk has a negative predictive impact on your GPA (3).  Translation: even smaller amounts of alcohol could hurt your grades.

According to some evidence based guidelines, moderate drinking (low risk for alcohol problems) is defined as (a maximum) <1 drink per day for women and <2 drinks per day for men; with the gender difference being related to biology (4).

However, it is important to note that there is low risk use, there is no risk free amount of alcohol use.

Additionally, there are people who should not drink alcohol at all (4):

  • If you cannot limit drinking to low level or are recovering from alcoholism.
  • Women who may become pregnant or who are pregnant.
  • Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination.
  • If you have certain medical conditions, sensitivity to alcohol, or are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, you should check with your prescriber before drinking any alcohol.

Additionally, you are at high risk for addiction if you have a personal or family history of alcohol use disorders, and thus should not drink alcohol (5).

Having a healthy brain will help you be in the best position for success. Is alcohol impacting your grades? Is alcohol trying to control you? Are you unable to drink safely? At, we have resources that can help.  Also consider the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service available at 1-800-662-HELP (6).

  1. NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking [PDF-1.6MB]. NIAAA Newsletter 2004;3:3.
  2. Journal of College Student Development, 48(6), 715-727.
  3. Wolaver, A. (2002). Effect of Heavy Drinking in College on Student Effort, Grade Point Average, and Major Choice. Contemporary Economic Policy, 20(4), 415-428.
  4. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Chapter 3 – Foods and Food Components to Reduce [PDF-967KB]. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2010, p. 30–32
  5. United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2005. Available at:
  6. Accessed September, 2014.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes.  With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

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Posted by R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU CCS Psychiatrist at 12:00pmPosted in Academic PerformanceAlcohol Tagged academic successAlcohol

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