Continuum of Use

Alcohol use can be defined on a continuum-of-use:

No use of alcohol is a choice we've all made for one reason or another. Maybe we needed to get up early in the morning, or had to study for exams, or maybe we just didn't feel like drinking one evening. Abstinence from alcohol might be a long-term lifestyle choice, whether for religious, cultural or personal reasons.


Experimentation is a phase where we are "trying out" alcohol and its effects. This may occur in high school, or for some Stanford students, (especially frosh), it may happen here on the Farm, especially during early fall quarter. Be aware of the special risks of the experimentation phase. Watch out for yourself and others. Inexperience with alcohol consumption often makes students vulnerable to unwanted and extremely adverse effects of alcohol.


Social use is the preferred drinking style of most Stanford students. Social drinkers are experienced in knowing their limits and enjoy being social and relaxed. It's difficult to chill if you're stumbling around, slurring your speech and being an obnoxious, sloppy drunk.


Alcohol misuse is a term used in two different ways. The term "alcohol misuse" can also refer to a pattern of drinking, even a single episode of heavy drinking, that leads to negative consequences. Examples of problems associated with misuse include vomiting, blacking out, drinking and driving, violence, and/or getting arrested. "Substance misuse" is a clinical diagnosis that infers that a person has a serious substance use disorder and may be approaching dependence.


Alcohol dependency, or a substance use disorder, is a serious medical and psychological condition that may develop over time as a result of chronic abusive drinking. Affecting approximately 12% of the U.S. population, It is a condition where the drinker physiologically needs the substance and may be dependent upon it to function socially. A dependent person may say, and truly believe, that he or she is choosing to drink heavily. In reality, however, they have lost the ability to truly make a personal choice about alcohol. Without support and treatment, students who are alcohol dependent face short and long-term harm to themselves, and perhaps to the campus community.

Stanford University - Office of Alcohol Policy and Education