Recent studies have found that binge drinking and overall use has decreased in recent years, but alcohol is still the most-used drug on college campuses. The Student Wellness Resource Center employs a harm reduction philosophy when educating about alcohol consumption by focusing on personal responsibility and guidance. 

Parents: According to another recent study, the more healthy communication you have with your child while recommending lower alcohol consumption has produced very positive results. SAMHSA released a guide to help you discuss alcohol consumption with your college-bound child.

Alcohol cannot be purchased or consumed by anyone under the age of 21 per Maine state law.

University Policies and Regulations

UMaine Student Handbook

Student Code of Conduct

University Policy and Law

Blood Alcohol Content

A person’s BAC informs them how intoxicated they are from alcohol. While BAC isn’t exact in measuring how each person is affected, it is able to give a general understanding of how a person’s body will react. Depending on metabolism and liver function, alcohol will continue to affect various systems in your body until it is eliminated.  A safe goal is to maintain your BAC between .00 and .06. Some factors that affect BAC include body mass, amount you drink, how quickly you drink, your biology, and levels of food and medication in your body.

Click here for an interactive BAC calculator. Remember that BAC calculators aren’t exact, but they are useful to help you create a plan for yourself.

Keeping BAC at lower levels will reduce your risk of hangover symptoms, reduce sleep inhibition, allow for better coordination and attention span, and keep your levels of awareness high.

There are many ways to keep your BAC in the optimal range. Controlling the pace of drinking is key – your liver can only process one serving of alcohol per hour. Be in charge of your own drink; allowing another person to make or have access to it may result in unsafe levels of alcohol or the inclusion of unwanted substances. When you mix your drink, make sure to measure the amount of alcohol before you put it in.

Food can also affect your BAC. Eating a meal that includes carb-rich or fatty foods will slow the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream. Drinking water while drinking alcohol will also help mitigate the diuretic effects. Best practice is to drink one full glass of water for every serving of alcohol you consume.

Short-Range Warnings

Alcohol can lower your inhibitions, impair decision-making, alter judgement, and lower coordination. The heart rate increases, capillaries expand,  speech slurs, reflexes slow, and eyes may have trouble focusing. There may be an increase in risky behaviors, which could lead to bad decisions like driving while intoxicated or a tendency to commit violence.

Overconsumption can also lead to alcohol poisoning

Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS)

This program is designed for students to explore their drinking in a non-judgmental environment. This program is delivered in two ways: either as a class or as a one-on-one meeting with a SWell Professional.

For more information about BASICS, click here.

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking is defined as consuming enough alcohol within two hours to raise your BAC to .08% or above. For most people, this would be around four to five servings.

The average person’s liver will process a single serving of alcohol every hour. Therefore, each additional drink will raise the amount of time alcohol will be present in your system by one hour. If unregulated, it is easy to experience alcohol overdose, otherwise known as blackout or alcohol poisoning. If this occurs to someone around you, make sure to call 911; medical amnesty/good Samaritan laws in Maine state that you will not be criminally charged when contacting authorities to address a situation involving substance overdose.

PHA: Medication and Alcohol

In a world with COVID-19 and the flu, knowledge of the medicine you are taking is more important than ever. Many over the counter cold medications such as DayQuil and Nyquil have serious consequences when taken with alcohol.  Many students follow the typical precautions of drinking water and eating food when taking medication, but some choose to also engage in drinking behaviors, which can lead to dangerous consequences.  Below is a Q&A about the dangers of mixing medications and alcohol. 

Can cold medicine be taken with alcohol? 

What is commonly in cold medicine? 

Is it dangerous to take medication with alcohol? 

How long after taking cold medicine can I drink?

What are the risks associated with taking cold medicine with alcohol?

Could mixing medication(s) and alcohol be a sign of a bigger issue? 

What about other over the counter, and even prescription, medication?

Can cold medicine be taken with alcohol? 

Depending on the type of medication being taken, many individuals often state they experience drowsiness, dizziness, and to a certain extent, some measure of motor impairment or difficulty in normal movements.  These effects could be significantly amplified when combining cold medicine and alcohol. 

Cold medications containing dextromethorphan, an active ingredient in DayQuil and Nyquil, could cause heavy sedation and respiratory depression when it mixes with alcohol in the body. (NyQuil also contains 10% alcohol!) This could cause unconsciousness or slow a person’s breathing to dangerous levels, potentially low enough to be lethal. 

What is commonly in cold medicine?

Cold medicines are commonly used to treat symptoms of a cold such as nasal congestion, cough, and headache/body aches.  The more potent ingredients, such as those found in DayQuil, include; dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant and sedative), phenylephrine (a decongestant commonly added in nasal sprays), and acetaminophen (a moderate pain reliever and fever reducer).  DayQuil’s counterpart, NyQuil, contains alcohol as an inactive ingredient on top of those other drugs.

Is it dangerous to take medication with alcohol?

Alcohol and medications are not recommended to be taken together. This mixture can increase sedative properties resulting in serious medical injury, including short or long-term liver damage. Alcohol also suppresses the immune system which can cause a prolonged, more-severe cold, or flu symptoms. One other strong recommendation is to avoid alcohol until you have completed your prescription for antibiotics. 

How long after taking cold medicine can I drink?

It is important that you not consume alcohol while actively taking cold medicine. Most active ingredients in cold medicines are active in the system for 4-6 hours depending on individual health variables. While mixing alcohol and cold medicine is not advised; you could have a drink after 4-6 hours from your last medication dosage. However, with your body being health-compromised, a single drink of alcohol could last in the body for 3 hours. 

Any other substance taken during this period could also interact with the cold medicine already in your system. Every person has a unique threshold; whatever period passes for a “safe” time to take alcohol after taking cold medicine, or vice versa, is completely relative to their body.

There is too much room for error, so it is best to wait to consume alcohol until the day after you have ceased taking cold medicine.

What are the risks associated with taking cold medicine with alcohol?

There are always risks of damage when two potent substances combine in the body. Mixing alcohol and any other substance will invariably lead to heightened negative risks. Regardless of a person’s tolerance or threshold, the damage could be anywhere from severe to life-threatening, and could take effect anywhere in between shortly after being taken or after quite some time, mainly due to accumulated effects.

The type of reaction and severity could depend upon the person and the particular components of the medication taken with alcohol. In the case of mixing cold medicine with alcohol, the more prominent dangers include:

    • Liver Damage
    • Convulsions
    • Severe Abdominal Pain
    • Sever Vomiting
    • Extreme Lethargy
    • Risk of Developing Alcohol/Cough Medicine Dependency
    • Nausea
    • Increases Risk of Hypertension
    • Loss of Motor Skills
    • Dissociation
    • Dizziness
    • Disrupted Sleep
    • Overdose and/or Death

The long-term dangers of cold medicine and alcohol’s side effects are well researched; specifically, the dangers of liver damage, hypertension, and convulsions. Because of the many effects of mixing cold medicine and alcohol, an overdose can occur in even the healthiest of individuals. Mixing cold medicine and alcohol is never advised.

Could mixing medication(s) and alcohol be a sign of a bigger issue?

Binge drinking (defined as consuming enough servings of alcohol in 2 hours to raise the BAC to .08 or above – typically 4 to 5 drinks) is already dangerous as inebriation causes numerous damaging effects on the body, including:

    • Neurological Issues
    • Diminished Physical Coordination
    • Cardiomyopathy
    • Arrhythmia
    • Hypertension
    • Stroke
    • Alcoholic Hepatitis
    • Liver Fibrosis
    • Cirrhosis
    • Pancreatitis
    • Cancer

The chance of developing one or more of these issues is significantly increased when overconsumption of alcohol is paired with substance use. In the case of cold medicine, as it typically induces feelings of sleepiness and deep relaxation due to its narcotic effect, some people might find that pairing it with alcohol produces a more severe experience.

What about other over-the-counter, and even prescription, medication?

Similar to cold medicines, mixing alcohol with any medication (whether it is over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor) can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, or loss of coordination. It can also put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. In addition to these dangers, alcohol can make a medication less effective, useless, or it may make the medication harmful or toxic to your body.

Even if they are not taken at the same time, the chemicals and ingredients can have negative effects when mixed with alcohol for the so-called ‘effective time’ a medication is active in your body.  Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medication and don’t know its effect.  

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has an FAQ sheet with some of the more common medications and their reaction when taken with alcohol. 

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment.

Drug and alcohol treatment is the first step on the road to recovery. If you or anyone you know requires rehabilitation, help is available. Contact your doctor or an addiction treatment facility for information or visit our Resource Page for more help. 

Long-Range Warnings

Extended use of alcohol can lead to dependency and addiction. More resources are available about misuse and addiction:

Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location

It is important to properly dispose of old medications; do not throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet, as they will leach back into the environment. Medicine drop off locations are the best way to safely dispose of unused or expired prescription and nonprescription (over the counter) medicines.

Before disposing of prescription medicine bottles, be sure to remove all labels and medicine packaging that may have personal information.  All of your medicines dropped off will be destroyed.

Click here for information on local disposal locations.


Cannabis information and research continues as nationwide use is on the rise. We are here to help you be as safe as possible at all times while at UMaine.

While recreational and medicinal use and sale is legal in the state of Maine, cannabis is not permitted at any UMaine property or facility. 

Cannabis cannot be purchased or consumed by anyone under the age of 21 per Maine state law.