Real Talk: Drinking in College

It's not all fun and games.
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Esther - Case Western Reserve University
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It's not all fun and games.
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Whether you party or not, chances are, you know someone who does, and between frat parties and local bars, there will always be something going on during the weekend. I’m not here to tell you to lock yourself in your room and throw away the key — I’m here to talk about how important it is to remember safety when you’re going out. 

Going to social events is a great way to meet new people and put yourself out there…so I won’t bore you with the college drinking statistics (but if you’re interested, you can look them up here). Instead, I’m going to tell you about some things that I keep in mind on nights that I’m out.

Drinking Safely

The most important thing for me is to go out with someone I trust. The buddy system might be a little old-school but there’s a reason that it’s still around. That way, you’ll have someone that you’re accountable to and vice versa. Whether it’s texting regularly or meeting up every hour or so, it’s best to check in through out the night.

And speaking of throughout the night, remember to pace yourself. Although drinking moderately means a maximum of 3 drinks/night for women and 5 drinks/night for men, these numbers change based on your metabolism and weight (here's a full drinks vs. weight chart for example)…and since you know your body the best, only you can monitor your sobriety. So it’s okay to say no to taking another round of shots or to the cute boy that just offered you a drink.

On that same note, knowing your personal alcohol tolerance and habits is important - if you've ever gotten too drunk and suffered the consequences, you understand why. It really helps to know yourself, take past experiences into account, and develop a personal limit. For instance, if you know that one night you had four drinks and felt too drunk, you know to stop at three or less next time and evaluate how you feel there. Having a number in mind makes it easy to track over the course of the night. (And remember, when I say "drink," I'm talking standard-size drinks, so adjust accordingly.)

Additionally, you might want to say no to all drinks that are offered to you and not in a closed container. Date-rape drugs are unfortunately a very real thing and I don’t think you can ever be too careful when it comes to these things.  

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While we’re on the subject of being careful, I hate to sound like a broken record but don’t drink and drive... EVER. And don’t get into a car with someone that’s not sober. Around 3 million college aged students drive under the influence of alcohol (and let’s not get started about other drugs) each year. We all know it’s illegal but we often don’t think about the other consequences. It’s easy to see things in the newspaper or on TV and say, “That would never happen to me”…but the truth is, those people you see on TV probably thought the same things.

I know a lot of this is basic stuff but sometimes, it takes a little reminder to actually practice them. So hopefully this can be that friendly push that you need to keep these thoughts in your head.

Underage Drinking

No one here at CF endorses underage drinking. That said, we're not going to pretend it doesn't happen. Again, you know yourself best and this is a judgement free-zone but you should keep in mind that possessing alcohol under the age of 21, as well as providing alcohol to people under age 21, is punishable by law.

Underage drinking can be more dangerous than of-age drinking because students often fear asking for help as they're in violation of the law. Sadly, many students in need of help don’t call the cops or health services because they’re afraid of what might happen if they’re caught drunk.

From personal experience, I can tell you that being lectured by the paramedics is a much better way to spend your night than trying to deal with a friend who clearly needs professional medical attention by yourself. Yes, it's unpleasant, and yes, you might get in trouble. But the consequences of not seeking help could be much, much worse - like, life and death worse - and you don't want that kind of regret in your life.

But what if I don't want to drink?

That’s also completely fine! I feel like students aren't told this often enough. Alcohol consumption is completely your choice. You should never feel pressured to do anything you don't want to do with your body, and that includes consuming alcohol. And if you do feel pressured, it’s perfectly okay to tell that person no. It’s common for friends to be the source of that pressure, as they want you to join in on their fun, but if they're good friends, they'll respect your decision not to drink or at least leave you alone about it.

I think the most overlooked and under-known aspect about college party and drinking culture is that you can party AND stay sober. You’ve probably heard people say, “I’m too sober for this” or “one more shot and I’ll be ready”…but the truth is, you can have just as much fun (or more, in my opinion) even if you say no to alcohol. You might not think this is true, but seriously, give it a try sometime! I’m usually the “designated driver” (or the person that collects everyone and takes them home) and at the end of the night, I can always say that I had fun.

It might seem a bit intimidating at first to be "the sober one," but remember that since most people at the party/bar will be inebriated, they probably won’t even think about judging you, whether or not you’re drinking. In fact, it might be the easiest place to let loose, be yourself, and approach new faces. (For more, we have a whole post on how to be sober and still party in college.)

Final Thoughts

Partying and college have become synonymous over the years and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s great to get out there and have a good time - you're only young once! But remember that drinking can also be really dangerous and you should not do it without understanding the risks. 

I hope these tips help you to stay safe in the future and if you have any tips or stories that you want to share, please leave a comment below!