Colleges all over the nation are getting ready for students to return to campus. The return of students to in-person classes and dorm living will usher in the return of parties. Often, alcohol is the main event of the party, but drugs will also be on the scene. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to find students using drugs like cocaine and “poppers,” at college bashes.
Poppers is the slang term for a group of liquid solvents, inhaled to gain a brief, but often intense, rush. The chemicals involved are legal and easily attainable. From markers to canned air for electronics, these nitrite-based inhalants are commonly found in many household items.
While many products use nitrites incidentally (as a propellant, for example) poppers also come packaged in small, dark bottles labeled as room deodorizers or leather cleaners for the express purpose of getting high. These products are marketed to young adults and teens and are common on college campuses. Because all of the ingredients are legal, some are boldly packaged and marketed for what they truly are – a means to achieving a high.
Binge drinking is the most common extreme party behavior. Defined by the CDC as “. . .a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours,” binge drinking is the status quo at many of these parties.
Being under the influence of alcohol and drugs puts us at risk. Our health and our safety are compromised. Alcohol affects our attention, abstract reasoning, organization, mental flexibility, planning, self-monitoring, and the ability to use external feedback to moderate personal behavior. In other words, we are in no shape mentally to make good decisions or protect ourselves from others who may wish to harm us.
Physically, we suffer impaired coordination, balance problems, blurred speech and vision, and slowed reaction time. These increase our risk of physical harm, accidents, stumbling, and make us unable to safely operate machinery, especially cars.
Party Without Regrets
For those in recovery, avoiding alcohol and drugs is the only way maintain sobriety. Those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol cannot indulge in moderate consumption – abstaining is the only way to avoid sliding down that slippery slope.
If you are living a sober life, you will need to manage your social life carefully. Some things to consider are:
- Avoid parties where the only point is to become “under the influence.”
- Always be in charge of your own drinks
- Keep in mind some ideas of ways to spend your time at the party –
- Meet and talk to new people
- Take to the dance floor
- Give the DJ a break and play some music
- Have an exit strategy if things get to be “too much”
Protecting your sobriety doesn’t have to be a somber affair. Choose to spend time with friends who understand and respect that alcohol and drugs will not be a part of your life going forward. You will find plenty of good times that are not centered on substance use and abuse. As a bonus, you’ll remember the evening!
Party Without Regrets
Even without addictive tendencies, it can be too easy to keep up with those around you. It is important to keep in mind that alcohol will affect your cognitive and executive functioning. Without a plan to moderate your drinking, you may get caught up in the atmosphere and drink more than you intend – placing yourself at risk. Sticking to one or two drinks per hour is a safer way to join the party and party without regrets.
Party Without Regrets
The “party without regret” mentality springs from a project I was a part of about thirty years ago. While I was on the faculty of the San Diego State University School of Social Work, my team and I developed a program called Student to Student. This alcohol and drug awareness program was designed to promote the social, academic and personal well-being of SDSU students.
This revolutionary program became a model for other interventive programs found on campuses throughout the United States.
If you and your friends choose to attend college parties where alcohol is present, here are some tips the STS program developed for partygoers and hosts to keep you safe:
- Go with a group of trustworthy friends. There’s strength in numbers when drugs and alcohol are present at college parties. The group will help keep an eye on everyone so no one goes missing and these positive people will keep your best interests in mind.
- Have a key check. Checking keys helps ensure no one will leave with a vehicle while intoxicated.
- Assign a designated driver. This person must be reliable to not engage in drinking or other drugs.
- Have cases of water available. Students often forget to drink water between alcoholic drinks, but if water is visible throughout the rooms, in the main drinks area, and in the fridge and coolers, it’s easy to just grab a bottle.
- Have appropriate foods for guests to eat and eat the foods offered.
- Cut off drinking or serving alcohol at a designated time. The same way bars have a “last call,” college parties must stop serving at a certain time.
- Offer sleeping blankets. In some cases, it’s better to let the person sleep it off.
- Keep bedrooms locked to avoid sexual misconduct. While under the influence of drugs and alcohol, we may make choices we would not make while sober.
- Keep an eye on your drink. Make sure you watch your drink, never set it down and don’t let anything be put into it. Rohypnol, commonly referred to as “roofie” or the “date rape” drug, is a central nervous depressant that can cause amnesia, confusion and impaired judgement. If you lose track of your drink – don’t risk it – get a new one or refrain from drinking.
- Sober Sisters. This is the original buddy system in which women in sororities are paired with a sister to look out for each other’s best interests at parties and social gatherings. You and your friends would be wise to adopt a similar system.
- If you indulge in tailgating, be sure to follow the university’s rules. Also, “Recovery First Tailgaters”, is a group of people who gather together to celebrate fun university or college campus events free of alcohol and other drugs. Visitaddictionwellness.com to find out more about this free program.
- Use technology as a tool Uber, Lyft, and just being able to call someone can make it easier for college students to get home safe.
Parties and college often go hand in hand, but they don’t need to include binge drinking or drug use. Celebrating these years with friends can be great fun – overindulgence not required.
You can get and stay sober and you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re struggling substance abuse or just need a little help maintaining your sobriety, reach out for help today.