Understanding Alcohol
sponsoring Institutes
Main Getting Started Teacher's Guide Student Activities About NIH and NIAAA
glossary | map | contact 
National Institutes of Health website National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) website

National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Understanding Alcohol

Main    Getting Started    Teacher's Guide    Student Activities    About NIH and NIAAA

Glossary    Map    Contact

Teacher's Guide hand using a mouse

Teacher's Guide

Lesson 6—Elaborate/Evaluate

Using Alcohol: Setting Limits

At a Glance

Figure 6.1. Woman and man toasting each other with wine glass and beer glass
Figure 6.1. Users of alcoholic beverages have the responsibility to drink wisely.

Overview

Students consider whether a legal limit for alcohol use should be imposed for all public activities, not just driving. Students use the knowledge from previous lessons and evaluate new information to decide whether such a limit should be established and, if so, what BAC limit to impose. Students then revisit the Statements about Alcohol from Lesson 1 to assess how their understanding of alcohol and its effects has changed over the course of this module.

Major Concept

Low concentrations of alcohol in the body may cause impairment of physical and cognitive skills. The consequences of low BACs include increased tendencies to participate in a variety of risky behaviors.

Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will

Teacher Background

Consult the following sections in Information about Alcohol:

  1. 7 Alcohol: Behavioral Effects
  2. 10 Consequences of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  3. 10.1 The costs to society
  4. 10.2 Drinking and driving
  5. 10.3 Drinking and risky behavior
  6. 10.4 Drinking and pregnancy
  7. 10.5 Drinking and violence

In Advance

Web-Based Activities
Activity Web Version?
1
No
2
Yes
Photocopies
Activity 1 Master 6.1, Issues to Think About (Prepare an overhead transparency.)
Master 6.2, Alcohol Information Sheets (Make 1 copy per student team.)
Activity 2 Master 6.3, Alcohol: Is This Right? What Do I Think Now? (Make 1 copy per student and prepare an overhead transparency.)
Master 6.4, Alcohol: Is This Right? Class Responses (Prepare an overhead transparency.)
Have students refer to their copies of Master 5.1, Blood Alcohol Concentration Tables, and Master 5.4, Progressive Effects of Alcohol (saved from Lesson 5).
Materials
Activity 1 no materials needed for this lesson, except for photocopies
Activity 2 no materials needed for this lesson, except for photocopies

Preparation

Have the copies of Master 1.1, Alcohol: Is This Right? that students completed in Lesson 1 available.

Procedure

Activity 1: Alcohol—Risks and Consequences

  1. Remind students that the legal BAC for driving is 0.08 (or 0.10, depending on your state). Ask students to speculate why the BAC was set at that particular level. Is it true that alcohol consumption is safe as long as the BAC is below that level? Is it true that activities other than driving are safe, regardless of a person’s BAC?
assessment icon
Assessment:
Ask students to recall what BAC means. Do students remember what BAC stands for and the factors that influence it?

Students will give a variety of responses. Some students will say that the BAC was set at a particular level because a person’s skills are more severely affected at that point. Others may respond that it was a rather arbitrary cut-off point. This discussion may remind students of what they learned in Lesson 5.

  1. Ask students to consider whether there should be a legal BAC for all activities (not just driving) when a person is in public. Allow students to share their thoughts with the class.

Some students will say that no such limit should exist, while others will suggest a specific BAC limit. For the purposes of this activity, insist that each student support a particular BAC level. Give students the opportunity to express the reasons for their opinions.

  1. Write the following BAC numbers on the board: 0.00, 0.02, 0.04, 0.06, 0.08, and 0.10. Be sure to space them out so that students can stand in front of each category. Instruct students to stand in front of the number that they think should be the legal BAC for all public activities. Students will form a “human histogram.”
  2. Explain that students who support a particular BAC limit will form a team. They are to use information they have learned from the earlier lessons and information provided in this lesson to justify their position. They are to write a brief summary of their position and its justification to share with the class.

Teacher note
Ideally, students will work in teams of three to four. If a particular BAC category has more students than that, ask them to form into multiple teams. Also, if you have a BAC category that is supported by just one student, then you may wish to combine that BAC with the next higher or lower one to create a team of three to four students. Finally, if you have a small class, consider reducing the number of BAC categories (0.0, 0.03, 0.06, and 0.09, for example).

  1. Display a transparency of Master 6.1, Issues to Think About, and explain that these issues can guide students as they work to justify their positions.
National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard C:
Behavior is one kind of response that an organism can make to an internal or environmental stimulus.

Encourage students to use these questions as a way to get started, but not to be limited by them.

  1. Pass out to each student team a copy of Master 6.2, Alcohol Information Sheets.

Master 6.2 provides supplemental information about alcohol’s effects that students can use in justifying their positions. It also includes information not directly relevant to their task. Part of the challenge is for students to sift through the information provided and to use only what supports their position (or contradicts a different position). Students should not simply copy complete sections from the information sheets. Ideally, students should construct a justification statement that presents all sides of the issues involved.

If student teams need additional guidance to prepare their justifications, you can suggest that one or two team members focus on explaining why the BAC limit should be set at the chosen level while the rest of the team focuses on the potential problems of using that BAC limit. The team should then discuss both sides of the issues and work together to write their team’s justification.

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard A:
Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models, using evidence.

assessment icon
Assessment:

The process of having student teams first write their justification and then present it orally helps you evaluate their understanding in two ways. First, you can collect the students’ written statements and evaluate their reasoning. Second, listening to their presentations and their answers to questions by classmates gives you further insight into their understanding. Make sure that each student participates in the oral presentation so that you have an opportunity to evaluate his or her understanding.

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard F:
Alcohol and other drugs are often abused substances. Such drugs change how the body functions and can lead to addiction.

Teacher note
Students will find that information about alcohol’s effects is not always broken down by BAC range. Often terms like “heavy or chronic drinking” are encountered. For the purposes of this activity, students can consider heavy or chronic drinking to imply that the affected individuals reach BAC levels that render them intoxicated (BAC of 0.08 to 0.10).

  1. After student teams have prepared their justifications, ask them to share their statements with the class. Encourage the rest of the students to ask the presenting team questions.

Encourage all team members to participate actively in their presentation. Note that this activity does not have a single “correct” answer. The important aspect of this activity is that students present relevant facts on which to base their conclusions. During the course of writing their justification, some students may want to change their minds and support a different BAC limit. In such cases, ask them to explain the BAC limit they would select and why.

If students feel that they cannot justify one BAC level as opposed to the next one, this is acceptable. A goal of the activity is to help students appreciate the nature of science. They may not be able to reach a firm conclusion. This is an opportunity to discuss what additional information they would like to have and how they could obtain it.

This activity may raise additional questions about alcohol use. Encourage students to continue their investigation through Internet searches. Several helpful Web sites, including that for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), are listed in the section Additional Web Resources for Teachers. This activity also raises an important issue about the nature of science. When students raise additional questions, they are learning how science is done.

  1. Following the student presentations, ask students to consider the implications of setting BAC limits. Use questions like the following to guide the discussion.

Of course, people do not know their BACs while they are drinking alcohol. Usually, BACs are only measured after there is an accident or some other problem. Help students recognize that there is variation in people’s response to drinking alcohol. Students should recall from previous lessons that alcohol response depends on many factors including the amount consumed, the pattern of drinking, body weight, gender, and even genetics (Lessons 2, 3, and 5). This means that the same amount of alcohol can affect different individuals differently.

Activity 2: How Much Have You Learned about Alcohol?

  1. Give each student a copy of Master 6.3, Alcohol: Is This Right? What Do I Think Now? Ask students to agree or disagree with each statement as they did earlier.
  2. After students have completed Master 6.3, give each student the copy of Master 1.1, Alcohol: Is This Right?, that he or she completed during Lesson 1.
  3. Display an overhead transparency of Master 6.4, Alcohol: Is This Right? Class Responses. For each statement, write on the transparency how many students agreed with it at the start of the module.
  4. For each statement, ask how many agree with it now. Write these numbers on the transparency in the spaces provided.
  5. Ask the class whether they changed their minds about any of the statements about alcohol. If so, which ones?

Answers will vary, though most students will change their minds about some of the statements.

  1. If students changed their minds about some of the statements, why did they do so?

Allow students to share their thoughts with the class or ask questions about the statements. Encourage students to provide specific examples from the activities in this module to explain their thinking. If students cannot reach a consensus about a statement, refer them to the outcomes of specific activities.

Use the following information about the statements to guide the discussion:

  1. Alcohol is a stimulant.

Alcohol is actually a depressant. It can appear to be a stimulant because it initially depresses the part of the brain that controls inhibitions.

  1. Caffeine will sober you up.

Caffeine will not help an individual become sober more quickly. The factors that influence a person’s BAC include the amount of alcohol consumed, the pattern of drinking, body weight, and gender. Only time will reduce the BAC as the body breaks down the alcohol.

  1. Food will keep you from becoming intoxicated.

Food in the stomach causes alcohol to be absorbed more slowly than when the stomach is empty. Food can delay the effects of alcohol, but it cannot eliminate them.

  1. Drinking beer is safer than drinking wine or hard liquor, such as vodka or whiskey.

The type of drink is not an important factor when considering the effects of drinking alcohol. As students learned in Lesson 2, 12 ounces of beer contain the same amount of alcohol as 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

  1. Alcohol-related car crashes are all caused by drunk drivers.

Most alcohol-related car crashes are caused by drivers with BACs over the legal limit. However, as seen in Master 6.2, Alcohol Information Sheets, drivers with BACs less than the legal limit also have crash rates higher than nondrinkers. Also, as presented on Master 5.4, Progressive Effects of Alcohol, BACs below the legal limit produce impairments.

  1. Alcoholism is a disease.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease involving a strong craving for alcohol, a constant or periodic reliance on use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, the inability to limit drinking, physical illness when drinking is stopped, and the need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.

  1. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism affect only the abuser.

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse and alcoholism affect other individuals in addition to the abuser. For example, the abuser’s family and friends are affected. Alcohol abuse leads to missed work, thereby affecting coworkers. Abusers are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors that can lead to accidents and even criminal behaviors that produce victims.

  1. Alcohol abuse or alcoholism will never be my problem.

As students learned in Lesson 4, many factors influence whether a person uses alcohol, abuses alcohol, or becomes an alcoholic. Some factors are genetic, many others are environmental, but the primary factor is personal choice.

  1. Nothing can be done about alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be treated effectively using medications and psychosocial (behavioral) therapies. Currently, there is no cure for alcoholism.

  1. It is a good idea to drink alcohol to prevent heart disease.

Studies have shown that alcohol in moderate amounts (about one drink per day) can reduce the risk for heart disease. However, in larger amounts, alcohol makes heart disease worse and can actually interfere with the rhythm of the heart. Doctors do not recommend that nondrinkers start drinking alcohol in an effort to prevent heart disease. There are many people who should not drink even one drink per day, including pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and people taking certain medications.

  1. Drinking a large amount of alcohol occasionally is less harmful than drinking a smaller amount every day.

Binge drinking can cause severe problems. Drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time can raise the BAC to such a dangerous level that the individual can lose consciousness and even die. However, even at lower levels, alcohol makes it more likely that a person will engage in risky behaviors with potentially serious consequences. Lessons 5 and 6 should help students understand the consequences of consuming alcohol.

  1. Drinking alcohol makes you feel more confident.

The effects of alcohol at a BAC between 0.01 and 0.05 include the loss of inhibitions and a sense of well being. When the BAC increases to between 0.06 and 0.20, some individuals become more boisterous and extroverted. These behaviors can be interpreted as confidence. However, the behavioral changes caused by alcohol consumption can vary greatly depending on the amount consumed and the individual’s response. At high BAC levels, some individuals experience severe emotional swings.


Lesson 6 Organizer
Activity 1: Alcohol Risks and Consequences
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Ask the class why the legal BAC for driving is set where it is.

  • Is it true that alcohol consumption is safe as long as the BAC stays below the legal limit?
  • Is it true that activities other than driving are safe, regardless of a person’s BAC?
Step 1

Ask the class whether there should be a legal BAC for all activities (not just driving) when a person is in public.

Step 2

Write the following series of BAC numbers on the board: 0.00, 0.02, 0.04, 0.06, 0.08, and 0.10.

  • Have students stand in front of the BAC that they feel should be the legal BAC for all public activities.
Step 3

Divide the class into student teams and instruct them to write a brief justification of their position.

  • Discuss Master 6.1, Issues to Think About.
  • Pass out Master 6.2, Alcohol Information Sheets.

transparency iconSteps 4–6


master icon

Allow student teams to share their justifications with their classmates and encourage questions of the presenters.

Step 7

Ask the class to consider the implications of setting such BAC limits.

  • Does a person know their BAC after they consume alcohol?
  • Is there a significant difference in a person’s mental or physical impairment between a BAC of 0.06 and 0.08? Between 0.04 and 0.06?
  • Will a person with a BAC of 0.08 always be more affected than a person whose BAC is 0.06?
Step 8
Activity 2: How Much Have You Learned about Alcohol?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Pass out to each student a copy of Master 6.3, Alcohol: Is This Right? What Do I Think Now? Ask students to agree or disagree with the statements.

master iconStep 1


transparency icon

Return Master 1.1 to the students so they can review their responses made during Lesson 1.

Step 2

Display a transparency of Master 6.4, Alcohol: Is This Right? Class Responses.

  • Record the number of students who agreed with each statement at the beginning of the module.
  • Record the number of students who agree with each statement now.
transparency iconSteps 3 and 4

Ask students if they changed their minds about any of the statements. If they have, ask them to explain their reasons.

Steps 5 and 6
transparency icon= Involves using a transparency.  
master icon= Involves copying a master.  

Return to Lesson Plans