While we usually have a handle on our drinking, we’ve all probably had a night (or twelve) where we’ve been surprised by how quickly our drinking caught up to us. Everything was going fine, you were drinking about as much as your friends, and then before you know it, you’re on the floor. What happened? How in the world did an otherwise responsible drinker suddenly find herself throwing up jello shots in a frat house basement?
As it turns out, a new study shows that if one of our friends is out to get hammered, the rest of us probably will too. Publication BMC Public Health just published a study to figure out how our peers affect our drinking by analyzing the breath alcohol content (BrAC) of 1,862 individuals who had been out drinking and asking them questions about how drunk they thought they were. As it turns out, even the people who were completely plastered judged their own drunkenness not on the amount of alcohol they had consumed, but on how much they drank compared to everyone else they were out with.
Think about it: If Meghan downs six Long Island iced teas and four shots, your five vodka crans look like nothing in comparison, so you think things are totally fine. On the other hand, if you notice a friend or two holding onto just one drink, you’re less likely to go completely crazy and go with the flow instead because it’s just easier.
This completely explains the time I projectile vomited Fireball shots all over the bathroom of a dive bar my junior year (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). I was matching Sara shot for shot, and since she was completely in control, I figured that I had nothing to lose and that my drinking must be responsible. What I didn’t take into account was that Sara’s alcohol tolerance had increased substantially from a recent trip to NOLA, whereas all I’d consumed the entire day was a green tea smoothie. However, because I was measuring myself against Sara instead of judging my own alcohol content, I had very, very wrongfully assumed that everything would turn out fine. Had this study come out the year my fake ID turned 21, I would have saved myself a lot of sorrow.
The takeaway here? Don’t just measure your drinking based on your other drunk friends — mark your shots on your hand with a Sharpie like everyone else. Just make sure you’re not wearing letters while you do so..
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