Language and Definitions

At the University of Richmond, we use Prevention Research Institute's PRIME for Life On Campus Program (we call it URAware - WELL 085) language and terminology in order to convey the most accurate and consistent message in all of our alcohol education/prevention endeavors, such as TIPS Training and the Campus Alcohol Policy.

Words to use:

  • "High-risk drinking" instead of "binge drinking" or "excessive drinking"
  • "Quantity" and "frequency" when discussing how much and how often

Avoid using:

  • Terms such as "responsible drinking," "handling alcohol," "knowing when to say when," "just say no," and other vague terms related to use and abuse
  • Terms such as "heavy," "moderate," and "social" drinker to describe someone's supposed level of drinking behavior


Low-risk drinking: An umbrella term covering both abstinence and specific, individualized and research-based quantity/frequency choices not associated with increased risk.

High-risk drinking: Specific, individualized and research-based quantity/frequency choices associated with increased risk for alcoholism.

Alcoholism: A lifestyle-related health problem with a level of biological risk established by genetics. Repeated high-risk quantity/frequency alcohol choices interact with biology to trigger alcoholism.

Trigger level: An individual's level of biological risk for a given health problem, such as alcoholism. It is that point at which an individual's high-risk choices have exceeded his or her level of biological risk and alcoholism is now present.

Tolerance level: A high or low "elastic" measurement of the body's impairment at a particular blood alcohol level. Everyone is born with an initial tolerance level that is genetically established.

Impairment: Any slowing of the mental or physical functions beyond the initial relaxation effects of a drink.

State dependent learning: What is learned or experienced in a drug or non-drug state is best recalled in that same state.

A "drink" equals:

  • 12 ounces of beer at 4% alcohol
  • 4 ounces of wine at 12% alchohol
  • 1 ounce of spirits at 100 proof

Children of alcoholics (COA): Those who have a family history of alcoholism.

Blood alcohol level (BAL): The percent of alcohol found in the blood at any time, expressed in hundredths of one percent of alcohol.