Why is it that some people take one drink and get drunk, but others drink a lot more and don’t even seem buzzed? Many factors, including your age and how frequently you drink, can make a big difference in how alcohol uniquely affects you. And it’s important to know how alcohol is going to affect you, so that you can stay safe while still enjoying yourself. Here are six factors you should take into consideration before picking up a drink.

  1. Age: In most states throughout the country the legal drinking age is 21, leaving the majority of college freshmen, sophomores and even juniors to consume alcohol surreptitiously. Underage drinking puts minors in risky situations while increasing the pressure to consume as much as possible in a short amount of time, in case the police come. This scenario almost ensures overconsumption and irresponsible drinking.
  1. Appetite: Eating food to absorb the alcohol you’re putting into your body may seem like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of people, especially college students, choose to forgo food in favor of a more immediate and more intense drunk. Intentionally forgoing food to amplify the effects of alcohol is a sure way to increase your chances of alcohol poisoning.
  1. Hydration: Drinking liquids encourages your body to push liquids out. Drinking alcohol naturally dehydrates your body. Unless you drink a glass of water for every drink you have, you’ll feel the physical repercussions of dehydration the next day as part of a nasty hangover. Do yourself a favor and get a glass of water in between ordering drinks; your body will thank you.
  1. Sleep: Too much alcohol consumption immediately before you go to bed, often described as “crashing” after a night of partying, seriously disrupts the quality of sleep you’re getting. Without enough quality sleep, the effects of dehydration and a night of hard drinking can be amplified.
  1. Weight: How much you weigh also plays an important role in determining how alcohol affects your body. Physicians recommend that women have no more than one drink in a day whereas a higher body mass allows men to drink an average of two drinks per day, without increasing their risk of adverse health consequences.
  1. Experience: If you don’t know how many drinks it will take you to get drunk, drink slowly. Simply knowing yourself, your limits, and how alcohol affects you both physically and emotionally will make drinking at a healthy level much easier.

Many people enjoy drinking alcohol in a reasonable way. As you consider factors that can impact your drinking, be mindful of why you’re drinking to begin with. Knowing why you drink and how best to do so responsibly will help you ensure your drinking is always under your control.