Alcohol Harm in Women

The harm alcohol can cause women has been proven, but it is still widely unknown amongst people, hence, the growing amount of women who are consuming alcohol. Because women’s bodies absorb more alcohol than men, it takes a longer time for the body to metabolize and rid the body of it, so there is a greater risk for long-term health problems.

The CDC reports that 46% of adult women reported drinking in the last 30 days, and 12% of women reported binge drinking 3 times per month–averaging 5 drinks per binge. Women may have adverse health outcomes from these behaviors related to reproduction and fertility, liver disease, brain function, heart function, an increased risk of cancer, and an increased risk of sexual assault. 

The relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer has also been heavily researched. The Susan G. Koman website reports that from an analysis of 53 studies, it was found that for each alcoholic beverage consumed each day, the relative risk of breast cancer increased 7%. Some may argue that there has been proven benefits for the heart with drinking alcohol, but as this article states–is this a fair trade when the risk of breast cancer is also increased? With such overwhelming evidence that there is a relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer (and other diseases), how can we make sure women are receiving the message that alcohol is harmful to our health? 

Doctors should get involved, and ask screening questions about alcohol use. Doctors should be able to educate women on the adverse health outcomes of alcohol consumption.

Brief interventions have been proven to reduce drinking alcohol among women. These interventions were performed in clinical settings and healthcare services, and the study showed that there was an decrease in both the number of days alcohol was consumed and the amount. The effectiveness of these brief interventions was noted to be related to the impact on reproductive health and the lower social acceptance of female consumption.  However, young people are less interested in having babies now more than ever. We also know it is becoming increasingly acceptable for women to consume alcohol.

This article discusses the cultural shift and how pop culture seems to “celebrate women who drink rather than warn against it.” This makes it difficult to identify what kind of interventions would be successful. 

There have been public campaigns against harmful substances such as tobacco and e-cigs, as well as campaigns against drunk driving and texting while driving.  Perhaps a campaign about the gender-specific effects of alcohol on women would be helpful. I, for one, have these campaigns in the back of my mind when I see people smoking cigarettes or texting while they are driving. It is a tricky issue because some may see this kind of campaign as an attack on women. Most importantly, I believe conversations like those tweeting #GSUwhyshedrinks must continue, as awareness is key for solving this growing issue. 

One Shot of Sober Curious, Please.

The Beginnings

There is a new trend taking off and it will leave you in the dust if you do not catch on: The Sober Curious movement. In a nutshell, “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” means when an individual has consumed alcohol in the past and does not like the way it makes them feel, but that individual is not completely done consuming alcoholic drinks. Confusing right? Splitting up the two words might make more sense.

Sober- not drunk, or not affected by alcohol; abstaining from alcohol.

Curious- eager to learn or know; inquisitive; prying.

Combining both words, we get, someone who identifies as sober curious means they are interested in the idea of abstaining from alcohol or staying sober, sometimes. The sober curious movement creates a culture for people to feel comfortable in their sobriety. Often the first response to someone denying to drink is “what’s wrong with you”, “come on, just have one”, or “you’re boring”. These typical responses are negative and can be corrupting to an individual who is trying to recover from their alcohol dependence. Additionally, negative words towards turning down a drink can lead to irresponsibility when consuming alcoholic drinks, including binge drinking, underage drinking, and risky behavior while drinking.


Social Media Presence

People have practiced sober curiosity long before the term was coined. Remember the post you use to see on Facebook every start to a new year? After an extensive holiday season of eating good and drinking long, your social media friends might have gone to their news feeds to express their sober start to the New Year and challenge their friends to join in on the movement. This public health campaign is better known as “Dry January”.

When a research study conducted in 2016 followed participants of the “Dry January” sober movement, results showed 82% of the participants said they felt like they accomplished more, 62% had better sleep habits, and 49% of the participants stated they lost weight while staying sober. These social media sober challenges did not end at just January, the challenges continued into other months such as “Dry July” and “Sober September”.


In recent years, sober social groups and communities have begun to gain recognition. On Instagram, @ASoberGirlsGuide, @SoberGirlSociety, and @TherapyForWomen are just a few examples of unique accounts that are tailored towards living a sober lifestyle and encouraging sober curiosity. Sober Girl Society has over 40 thousand followers, all inspiring to live healthier lives. Not too long ago, the Sober Girl Society provided a post for her followers to discuss in the comments what being sober curious meant to them. Reading through the comments, I could tell that the discussion was meaningful and educating to the followers. Sober Girl Society is providing a safe space for individuals, specifically women, to ask question, seek help, and build a community that encourages sobriety and independence from alcohol.






Culturally Acceptable

Although practicing sober curious behavior is not recommended for people who are alcohol dependent, the sober curious movement has sparked ideas for alcohol dependent communities to join in on the culture. Non-alcoholic bars are popping up everywhere. Owner of the sober bar, Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, Chris Marshall has been sober for the past 12 years. He opened Sans Bar to provide a comfortable place where people can socialize, eat drink non-alcoholic drinks, and meet other sober friends. The feedback from Sans Bar has been so accepting that Chris has taken his sober bar on the road. Chris has opened other sober bars in Kansas City and Massachusetts, and has also hosted pop-up bars in popular cities such as New York and Washington D.C.  

Additionally, Ruby Warrington, author of the book “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.”, is also the co-founder of a posh New York City venue called Club SÖDA NYC. Just like Warrington, Club SÖDA NYC is a sober curious social community offering a list of non-alcoholic drink options for consumption.

I believe the sober curious initiative will gain cultural acceptance the more people learn and understand the meaning behind the movement. Proof of the acceptance is in the abundance of social media pages and groups promoting the movement, as well as the communities providing sober atmospheres.  The interesting thing about being sober curious is that there is no right or wrong answer as to how much you identify with it. The way everyone expresses their sobriety is unique and personal to themselves. There also is no shame associated with the movement. People can drink, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, without the having to answer questions, nor feel embarrassment.



Do we need to consider gender differences when developing prevention strategies for excessive alcohol consumption?

The negative consequences of alcohol consumption are harmful to both men and women. This could not be overstated, as there are numerous studies in the literature documenting the risks associated with alcohol consumption.   Excessive alcohol consumption leads to alcohol dependence and abuse, but overtime it can lead to the development of chronic diseases

Given the high costs of excessive alcohol consumption and the concern of alcohol abuse and dependence to both people and society, evidence-based approaches for preventing harmful alcohol use are key. Are these prevention strategies different for men and women? What do you all think?

Some strategies could be targeted towards both sexes however, definitely without a doubt there needs to be strategies focused only for women. Why is this so?

Most importantly, women are more vulnerable to negative effects of alcohol than men. As noted in the literature alcohol is metabolized differently in women than men and women continue to be at a higher risk for serious health consequences when compared to men. There is evidence from studies that for equivalent doses of alcohol, women are more vulnerable than men to tissue damage and the onset of certain diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and physical alcohol dependence (1). In addition, it is found from studies that women often start drinking at an older age, yet the progression from first drink to alcohol dependency progresses much more quickly in women than in men (2). This phenomenon is known as telescoping (3).Further, we all know that excessive alcohol consumption by pregnant women is a risk behavior for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and other adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth.

What are some of these prevention strategies targeted for women?

Well, before we think about these, we should first try to determine the reasons why women drink in the first place? According to studies reviewed in the literature, the experience of a negative effect such as anxiety, depression and violence against women serves as cue for alcohol consumption in women. Prevention strategies must focus on targeting the underlying risk factors related to excessive alcohol use such as mental health component of anxiety and depression and offer support to women who are victims of violence. This may in-turn cause the reduction of alcohol use among women.

Another prevention strategy is to make women aware of risks of alcohol use. However, education and awareness strategies on Alcohol and its related risks use must be given at a time for women in their adolescence period as this can contribute to behavior change thereby enabling opportunities to encourage delaying the use of alcohol. This prevents excessive alcohol consumption among women which can also delay all potential risks associated for young women when using alcohol.

An American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee Opinion recommends alcohol use screening for all women seeking obstetric-gynecologic care, including counseling patients that there is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy, and recommends that women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant be advised to avoid alcohol use.

1. Kalant H. Absorption, diffusion, distribution and elimination of ethanol: effects on biological membranes. In: Kissin B, Begleiter H, eds. The biology of Alcohol ism, vol 1. Biochemistry. New York: Plenum Press, 1971.
2. Cyr MG, McGarry KA. Alcohol use disorders in women. Screening methods and approaches to treatment. Postgrad Med.2002; 112:31-32,39-40,43-47.
3. Greenfield SF, Manwani SG, Nargiso JE. Epidemiology of substance use disorders in women. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am.2003; 30:413-446.

Ending Excessive Alcohol Use – Do Some Methods Work Better for Women?

Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in America – right behind tobacco and poor diet and physical inactivity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that reveals the grim truth about alcohol abuse in the United States. This dangerous activity is responsible for 88,000 deaths and almost $250 billion in economic burden every year! Of those deaths, it is estimated that 26,000 are women. Excessive alcohol use has two forms – binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour period for women and 5 or more drinks in the same time frame for men. Heavy drinking is drinking 15 or more drinks per week for men or 8 or more drinks per week for women. In 2015, nearly 30% of the adult population reported that they’d engaged in binge drinking in the prior 30 days. Seven percent reported heavy drinking. As we can see – excessive alcohol use is a real issue in the U.S. What is even more alarming is the fast rate at which women are engaging in risky drinking behaviors.

Prevention is necessary for combating the rising rates of alcohol abuse in general. There have been many prevention strategies proposed. There are several questions that remain, however. Should prevention methods differ between men and women? If so, which methods are best for women? To answer these questions it is necessary to know why women drink. The answer, though likely multifaceted and complicated, will guide public health professionals the most appropriate prevention techniques. 

Regulating Alcohol Outlet Density

The Community Preventative Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends regulating – through licensing and zoning – the density and number of alcohol outlets as a method to reduce alcohol overconsumption. Places that have employed this method have fewer alcohol sales – which one could only assume means less usage. Several studies have found an association between alcohol outlet density and alcohol-related harm. Where the density was high, the level of consumption was high and more harm occurred. Whether or not this method would be effective in women has not yet been determined. We may see that the effect on lower alcohol outlet density may have equal effects among men and women because women drivers outnumber male drivers so getting to an alcohol outlet that is further away would still be possible for women. 

Increasing Alcohol Taxes

Another method of prevention recommended by the CPSTF is to increase the price per unit of alcohol by raising the alcohol tax. A similar method was adopted for tobacco sales which resulted in a dramatic reduction in sales.  A similar rationale applies to alcohol – if you make it more expensive, fewer people will buy it and fewer people will drink it. Several studies have shown that this is an effective method. The downfall here is that this method will do nothing to reduce alcohol consumption in wealthy populations which we know are responsible for the consumption of most alcohol. Whether or not it will work to reduce consumption in women would depend on the socioeconomic status (SES) of the women. Employing this method will almost certainly result in a reduction of use in women with a low to middle SES but probably won’t have much of an effect on those women who have a higher SES. 

Image result for alcohol use in women

Maintaining Limits on Hours of Sale

This method for alcohol consumption control may limit the times of day that alcohol can be sold or served. Recently, Fulton County, Georgia proposed and passed a bill that would allow drinks to be purchased in a restaurant earlier in the day on Sundays. This bill was commonly referred to as the “Brunch Bill” because it mostly affected brunch alcohol sales. This bill mostly increases alcohol consumption in women. If the permitted hours of alcohol sales were limited, we may see a reduction in how much women are consuming. 

Determining which methods will work best for women will require more research and surveillance to figure out what factors that influence drinking and abstinence are unique to women. This information can then be used to develop best practices that will ultimately lead to a reduction in excessive alcohol use in women. 


Raising awareness on the harms of alcohol for women

Alcohol is know to have it’s dangers; from developmental delays if exposed too young, to lowered inhibitions often leading to risky behaviors, the harms it can cause are no secret, and often seen as worth it for the relaxation a small drink can bring. However, as research and technology move forward, new findings often come to light. Included in this are the recent publications that show how drinking can be much more dangerous for woman than men. Examples include higher prevalence of liver disease, increased dependency issues, and the critical issue of growing rates of breast cancer among women who drink regularly compared to those who don’t.

Beyond the extensive problems themselves these issues can bring,  there is an additional pressing matter in that  often these risks aren’t as well known as others. Without having all of the facts of the dangers of the substance, it’s not completely possible to make an informed decision regarding alcohol.  There are a variety of tactics that can be enacted to educate the population, and seeing how crucial these concerns are, it’s time to implement some of these changes.  

In a 2018 analysis, effectiveness of mass media campaigns targeting alcohol were assessed. Looking at 24 campaigns all placed throughout different areas in developed countries, testing for effectiveness was evaluated by how well consumers recalled information and if any steps or actions were taken that could be directly related to the issue of drinking. The campaigns mainly focused on distribution through materials and media in the form of TV and radio adverts. However, many also utilized billboards, social media ads, and ads along transportation modes and routes.

The results of the analysis showed that while individuals were not necessarily changing their drinking behaviors or attitudes after being exposed to the campaigns, they were recalling the information provided even after substantial amounts of time had passed since being exposed. The graph, summarizes the most notable results of the campaigns after each had aired. Awareness, understanding and recollection were present after in almost each campaign. While none of the studies focused on spreading awareness for the link between alcohol and breast cancer, or any other adverse effects for women, they are effectively showing that these media blitz  advertisements can still work towards making the population aware of certain health issues they may be facing. 

Beyond traditional media efforts that public health organizations can take, there are newer modes that I believe could help spread the issue surrounding this link. Information hidden under the disguise of an internet quiz, listicle, or even a meme. For example, everyone is familiar with Buzzfeed completely pointless and sometimes sponsored quizzes. Mattel sponsored one entitled “Which Barbie doll are you” and the quiz went on to be viewed over 1 million times with almost 200,000 shares on Facebook.

While the idea may be unheard of, if a health related organization put out content in a way that seems maybe less threatening and more Gen z friendly, for example a sponsored quiz or listicle “Are your drinking habits healthy” with a short series of questions that could indicate a need for further research on the users part. It’s private, not intimidating, and exposure could reach a lot of younger women who are coming of drinking age. These sponsored ‘articles’ could be just a small stepping stone towards legitimate information and could provide additional websites or sources to visit for additional information.  It might seem odd and unprofessional in a way but if the goal is to increase awareness around the link between alcohol and breast cancer, and it is, then this is simply another method to increase public awareness for all women in all age ranges. 

Public health organizations and officials who are trying to educate on the dangers of drinking for women should implement some traditional informational techniques, such as media targeted campaigns, while attempting strategies to connect with younger populations. These campaigns need to be targeted, they need to address the issues plainly, and these to be present widespread in spaces where women will access. Through this education, women well at least have the chance to be better informed and hopefully make better decisions regarding long term health. While there is a separate issue of actually mobilizing these populations to change their behaviors around some of the risk factors of alcohol, first and foremost should be the issue of spreading accurate information. 


Alcohol consumption causes breast cancer: Did you know?

It is clear that many women still don’t know about the harm alcohol can cause, including breast cancer. How can we better disseminate these messages?

Unfortunately, there are several women and girls who are not aware of the consequences of alcohol. Through my current research using the YRBS 2017 survey, it appears that high school girls are starting to drink earlier than before, and Black and Hispanic girls are engaging in binge drinking more than their male counterparts.

During my time in middle and high school, health teachers only discussed that alcohol and sex is wrong and should be avoided completely, but they did not tell us what the side effects are of engaging in drinking. They basically only said that we would not be able to drive after drinking, and that our vision would be blurry. Nothing about cancer.

Many people, including myself get to college not knowing that alcohol causes more problems than just liver cancer. One drink and we’ll be fine right? But one drink can contain 4 shots of vodka. Don’t you think that affects your body, especially if you continue with that mindset? The answer is YES. And to my women friends, did you know that the more alcohol we drink, the more we increase our chances of developing breast cancer? Yeah, neither did I until a few weeks ago….and I’m 23. 

Here is an excerpt from

“Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol also may increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells.”

Did you know that before reading this blog? 

–Yeah, I didn’t think so. This goes to show that important information related to alcohol and cancer has not been given often to the general public. 

What we should do to disseminate this information better:

  1. Provide healthy drinking guidelines to high school and college students. 
    • Here’s an infographic on what excessive alcohol use is. I strongly believe pictures describe 1,000 words.
  2. Once in college, Resident Assistants (RAs) should be responsible for giving a safe drinking lecture and holding an exercise to demonstrate how much is okay to drink and what kind of diseases can come from drinking. Speaking from experience, college students learn more from people their own age– neither professors nor administrators. 
  3. I strongly believe in community programs. Macon, Georgia is a relatively large city and puts together something called “Open Streets” every year. During this program, the streets are blocked off in the city, and open for people to partake in exercise classes and ride their bikes all across town! Atlanta has a similar thing called Atlanta Streets Alive. These programs are super successful. So, maybe at these programs, alcohol lectures can be given! 
  4. Fliers!!! Fliers are so powerful! Pictures. Words. Colors. It’s eye-catching. One of the best ways I got information about events and programs in college was through fliers. Location is key! They need to be placed where young people go, such as the mall, the grocery store, the movies, etc. 
  5. Advertisements on social media. Recently, I have noticed advertisements about the JUUL on Snapchat. Every post I look at, there’s an advertisement about how the JUUL leads to certain health issues. I think social media is an easy and effective way to reach young people and the population that drinks the most. 


Works cited:

Choosing Sobriety

One of the problems of “sober culture” is that it is generally associated with teenagers, those with strong religious beliefs, and people in recovery. It has not typically represented the average woman and man who decide not to drink alcohol for any of the other countless reasons: they don’t like the taste, they worry about the potential health consequences, they don’t want the empty calories, they want to spend their money on other things that bring them joy. Yet, if an individual declares that they are choosing to remain sober, it evokes questions from their audience: “are they in rehab?”, “did they become religious?”, or, if the individual is a woman, the unavoidable “is she pregnant?” that leads to careful glances at the woman’s midsection for evidence of a bump.

But, in fact approximately 46% of people in the Americas are choosing to abstain from alcohol, more than half of whom are former drinkers. 

Maybe the problem in the United States, among many other countries, is the fact that drinking alcohol is the norm. Consider all the places and events where drinking is supported. Going on a trip? Have a drink at the terminal while waiting for your flight to board, and then select from a variety of wine, beer, and spirits while you are in the air. At a baseball game? Nothing is better than a cold beer to go along with your peanuts and cracker jacks. Attending a wedding? At best, there’s an open bar. At worst, it’s a dry wedding (but most likely you will find at least one person with a flask stowed away).

These are just a few examples of the ubiquitous nature of alcohol. So it makes sense that people who are deciding to abstain from alcohol have a hard time feeling supported. How can we, as a society, make sobriety not just a choice but the default?

Maybe the answer lies in the amazing efforts of the anti-smoking campaigns of the earlier part of this century. The Truth Campaign, for example, was notorious for showing the public what was on the other side of those glossy ads of sophisticated, handsome smokers. The “truth” was that the heads of the tobacco companies (mostly older, white men) were making billions of dollars by carefully tapping into consumers’ psyches to convince them that their cigarettes, though highly addictive and deadly, would make them cooler, sexier, smarter, or whatever adjective the target population coveted. 

Alcohol companies are not much different. Their main goal is to get as many customers as possible to buy and consume their products, regardless of how deadly they are. Take, for example the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, Carlos Brito, who has this to say:

“At the heart of our business, we strive to understand what unites people. From sports, to music, to dinner parties, or nights out with friends and family, it’s our goal to make those occasions even better with our extensive product portfolio.”

Clearly, the narrative he is trying to sell to keep his $1.49 Billion dollar company afloat is that “alcohol brings people together”.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Approximately 88,000 men and women die each year from alcohol related causes. And alcohol is the source of a myriad of other morbidities, including non-fatal accidents, chronic diseases, birth defects and social harms. None of which are listed alongside photos of people drinking Michelob Ultra at the lake.

We need to rebel against these companies that lie in order to sell their products and that analyze and target the weaknesses of the most vulnerable and susceptible Americans. It’s not enough to just report on another alcohol-related death because, as callous as it may sound, we have become desensitized to it in the media. We need to call out the alcohol industry by name. “Today, another young person died due to Bacardi, or Jim Beam, or Smirnoff.” Once we start to associate alcohol not only with “good times”, but with the truth, we may no longer question why people chose to be sober. 

College Drinking Culture: Men and Women Differ

“Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!”, a familiar chant during a typical Friday night on campus. Students are hanging upside down chugging down a keg, coolers filled with jungle juice and alcohol games in every room you turn in. Has college drinking gone too far? Is it time we change the culture? Depending on whom you talk to this topic  can become reasonably controversial.

Young adults between the ages of 18–25 report high rates of alcohol consumption, including heavy episodic (binge) drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks at a time (Kate, 2007). Compared to their peers not attending college, college students consume larger quantities of alcohol on drinking occasions (Kate, 2007), and as many as 43% of undergraduates report heavy episodic drinking at least once in the last two weeks (Kate., 2007). 90% of college schools provided counseling and treatment services for students, and nearly as many provided prevention services (e.g., alcohol education) for freshmen or other at-risk groups.

Three major findings emerged from a A meta-analytic review for Individual-level interventions to reduce college student drinking:

(a) individual-level alcohol interventions for college drinkers reduce alcohol use

(b) these interventions also reduce alcohol-related problems, and reductions in problems vary by sample and intervention characteristics

(c) the contrast between students who receive interventions and those in control conditions diminishes over time. provides comprehensive research-based information on issues related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students. An alcohol prevention strategy they propose involves parents and it is called, “Fall Semester—A Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking”. As college students arrive on campus in the fall, it’s a time of new experiences, new friendships, and making memories that will shape their future; for many students, it is also a time of underage drinking.

Outlined is the prevention strategies parents are urged to help reduce unhealthy alcohol use by:

  • Talking with students about the dangers of harmful and underage college drinking—such as the penalties for underage drinking, and how alcohol use can lead to sexual and other violence, as well as academic failure and other adverse consequences.
  • Reaching out periodically and keeping the lines of communication open, while staying alert for possible alcohol-related problems.
  • Reminding students to feel free to reach out to them to share information about their daily activities, and to ask for help if needed.
  • Learning about the school’s alcohol prevention and emergency intervention efforts.
  • Making sure students know the signs of alcohol overdose or an alcohol-related problem, and how to help.

Now with all this said, would you think there needs to be different prevention strategies for women and men?

The short answer is yes. Gender differences in alcohol use and associated problems have been the focus of research and news stories to develop prevention strategies. Below are a few links of alcohol gender based differences: 

Why alcohol affects women more than men

Think Before you drink: Alcohol Affects Men and Women & Differently

Women appear to be more vulnerable than men to many adverse consequences of alcohol use. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) documents that women achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood and become more impaired than men after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol. Research from the NIAAA also suggests that women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related organ damage and to trauma resulting from traffic crashes and interpersonal violence. 

In order to be an effective alcohol prevention strategy there must be a focus on the problems affecting that subgroup of the population, being men and women in this case. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a framework called the strategic communications framework. The purpose of this Framework is to describe a strategic approach for effectively communicating information, advice and guidance across a broad range of health issues. In order to communicate effectively across the audiences (men/women), the prevention strategy has to be tailored to them. Everyone knows that men and women think different, act different and are different, after all men are from Mars and women are from Venus. 


Fact Sheet For New College Students And Parents. (n.d.). Retrieved from

H. Wechsler, M. Seibring, I.C. Liu, M.Ahl Colleges respond to student binge drinking: Reducing student demand or limiting access
Journal of American College Health, 52 (2004), pp. 159-168

Kate B. Carey, Lori A.J. Scott-Sheldon, Michael P. Carey, Kelly S. DeMartini, Individual-level interventions to reduce college student drinking: A meta-analytic review, Addictive Behaviors,

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,  No. 46. Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol’s Effects?

World Health Organization. WHO strategic communications framework.



Sober Curious – The New Norm for Drinking Culture?

What is Sober Curious?

Sober curious is a movement characterized by eliminating alcohol from the lifestyle for health and wellness reasons. It asks people to “imagine what it’s like to be hangover free,” and is meant as a way to encourage people to take a break from drinking. For some, this means participating in “Dry January” or “Sober September” to see if it is something that they can do. And if they do make it through, and notice the benefits, they may be more likely to make this change over the long-term.                                                     

The sober curious initiative is gaining popularity among Millennials, those aged 22 to 38. They are beginning to realize that going out and always feeling the need to drink is not necessarily fun or feasible. Many in the Millennial generation are trying out this movement in order to not feel the social pressure to drink, and they also want to drink less. Sober curiosity does not necessarily mean that one must abstain from drinking alcohol completely; it just means altering drinking habits to become less frequent. Instead of drinking being a weekly occurrence, it becomes something that happens only once a week or on special occasions, such as birthdays, holidays, or certain celebrations. For some, however, sober curious might mean completely abstaining from alcohol.

Alcohol as a cultural norm 

Alcohol is viewed in our society as something that must be present for a number of reasons. Need to have fun, relax, forget about what’s troubling you? The answer is always most frequently to grab a beer, take a shot, down a bottle of wine. Alcohol is ever present and is the main staple at parties, celebrations, and sporting events.

However, for those who do not drink or are wanting to limit their drinking, being in these social situations and surrounded by alcohol and people drinking can be daunting. For the sober person, it can be uncomfortable when they are bombarded with questions about their drinking habits. As someone who very seldom drinks, and spends most parties standing around with a cup of water, I can attest to the discomfort that these questions bring. As a younger adult, it was harder to socialize at parties when I didn’t drink, so I usually did not go. However, as I became older and felt more comfortable telling people “drinking just isn’t my thing,” being okay with being sober became easier. 

The social pressure to drink is real and can get people into trouble. People drink in order to socialize and fit in, and this is harmful because it can escalate into even worse habits. It can push someone to an alcohol use disorder and can be detrimental to their health.

Being sober is stigmatized by people who do drink, and therefore sober people are seeking out ways to socialize and have fun with other people who also want to be sober. For those who still like to be in a bar setting, a number of dry bars have been gaining popularity among the sober curious crowd. Bars such as The Sans Bar, cater to this crowd by serving non-alcoholic beverages. The drinks served at these bars are not just your ordinary O’Douls, they are very sophisticated drinks known as “mocktails.” They have all the complexities of a normal cocktail but without the alcohol. This is appealing to the sober curious individual because it is a safe space where they can go to socialize, be around other non-drinkers, and not feel pressure to partake in the drinking culture or be questioned about their choice to not drink.

 Mocktails – alcohol-free cocktails – that are served at dry bars.

Beer companies that market low-alcohol or alcohol-free options are also catering to the sober curious movement. Heineken has just come out with a new zero-alcohol beverage, Heineken 0.0. Because not drinking is stigmatized, it is important for some people who do not drink or are trying to cut back on drinking, to look as if they have a drink while in a bar. The Heineken 0.0 beer tastes very similar to the alcoholic beer and has kept the same packaging – the iconic green bottle – which allows non-drinkers to drink the beer while out at a bar and other people would have no idea that it was a non-alcoholic drink.

Heineken 0.0 – Zero alcohol beer.

What are some of the risks of chronic or excessive drinking?

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption led to about 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost in the United States from 2006 – 2010. Drinking alcohol can contribute to both short-term health risks – car crashes, suicide, risky sexual behaviors, alcohol poisoning – and long-term health risks – chronic diseases, depression, dementia, alcohol dependence.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) website note the damaging effects that alcohol – both chronic and occasional alcohol use – can have on the body. Alcohol can majorly impact the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and the immune system. In addition, it is a carcinogen and can cause several types of cancers, such as liver, breast and esophageal cancer to name a few.

Effects of alcohol on the body – from Daily Mail

Agencies such as the NIAAA and CDC, which are tasked with conducting research and the dissemination of health information to the public sphere, can only do so much to change people’s views on the risks of alcohol consumption.

Is being sober curious worth it? What are the benefits of participating in the movement? 

A large number of people who are sober curious or participated in Sober September, Dry January or the like, have reported positive experiences from their time off from drinking, or just drinking more mindfully. They have reported feeling healthier, feeling more creative and productive, weight loss, and have had less trouble sleeping.  

In an article from NPR, Aaron White, a scientific advisor at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said of sober curious people: “[…] at the end of that month — just after one month — people, by and large, lost some weight. They had improvements in insulin sensitivity, their blood pressure numbers improved and their livers looked a little healthier.” White goes on to say that while there were only modest improvements in the health of an individual who abstained from alcohol for that month, the results were still worth noting. Over the long term, the benefits of sober curiosity might outweigh the costs of drinking.

Will Sober Curious become culturally accepted?

I believe that the Sober curious initiative can grow and become culturally accepted. At this moment in time, being completely sober or a light drinker is still seen by many people who drink regularly as strange. Especially when so many social activities and work functions rely on the presence of alcohol to make the atmosphere feel “normal.” I believe that as a society, we need to work on de-stigmatizing the sober culture.

The sober curious movement will also allow those who do not want to drink to essentially “opt out” of the social pressures of drinking. So many people who do not want to drink do so in order to fit in. What the sober curious initiative offers is unique in that it is catering to a marginal group of people who feel as if they need to hide the fact that they do not drink alcohol. The dry bars create a social network where an individual can feel comfortable about not drinking while being surrounded by like-minded individuals who also abstain from alcohol for various reasons. If more people are aware that this option exists, it may become just as culturally acceptable as drinking has become, and the social pressures associated with drinking will disappear.

With the growing wellness and self-care craze that has currently taken off on social media, I think that the Sober Curious initiative has a place right alongside quinoa superfood salads and goat yoga. If enough people get on board, especially the wellness influencers on social media, the stigma surrounding being sober will be a thing of the past! 

Somebody get me a (zero-proof) drink!

If I’m being completely honest, I hate how central alcohol is to the social lives and activities for adults. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy alcohol, and I feel no motivation or pressure to drink if someone is trying to persuade me to do it, I still find myself in situations where I’m definitely at a disadvantage if I don’t want to drink alcohol. I’m mostly past the days where my friend group legitimately wants to stay out until 4am, in loud clubs, and be blackout drunk, where I would have to choose between FOMO or being exhausted and miserable, but I’m still in situations very regularly where everyone wants to drink.

We’ve moved into lower key fun activities– like hanging at chill (quiet) bars with food and games, or going out for fancy craft cocktails and overpriced appetizers. This is definitely less unpleasant than clubbing and doing shots, but I have always wished there were equally exciting, ‘craft’ non-alcoholic drinks at these places. My only options are regular soda, and water -__-. Well look no further, Brianna– sober curiosity has started a movement of exactly that.

  • As a brief note, I have an issue with the above linked article, and the linguistic concept of being ‘sober curious’. It appropriates and trivializes meaningful language and concepts from the LGBTQ+ community. Check out this article on appropriation of queer culture. Commandeering our vocabulary (like “‘coming out’ as sober”) for the trendiness of it feels thoughtless and inconsiderate of the daily struggles that queer people face for their identities. 

HOWEVER–I am very happy about some of the results of this movement! More and more establishments are offering exciting and unique drinks, just without the alcohol. This gives abstainers the option all the fun of going out for fancy cocktails without the liver damage! The social exclusion of ‘not drinking’ could be substantially diminished if you are drinking something just as (or more) exciting as your friends. The opportunities for creativity going into these spirit-free drinks holds significant potential for making them cool. If the popularity of craft, non-alcoholic, drinks spreads, more establishments will add them to their menus, and customer demand for uniqueness will increase. This could lead alcohol companies to join that market and put more time and effort into manufacturing the types of non-alcoholic ingredients and drinks people are demanding.

I can say without hesitation that if my local liquor store started selling stuff like fresh mint leaves, rosewater, lavender infused soymilk, and whatever other wild things they come up with… I would buy it over alcohol. Alcohol tastes bad and it’s expensive :(. I often look at a drink menu and wish I could order the drink without the alcohol– I mean look at this stuff! Somebody please make me a drink out of chocolate mousse and raspberry puree! 

This sober curious initiative could make sobriety much gentler on people’s social lives. Actually be excited to get drinks at the bar? I’m in, and already making plans to try all these drinks.