I get it that college drinking and “smart” are mutually exclusive terms. College drinking is usually anything but smart. Isn’t that the whole point? Smart is for the classroom. After class or on the weekend it's all about going hard….drinking fast, drinking large quantities, liquor mixed in a 50-gallon container, mixing in other substances… all a recipe for disaster, but what student thinks a disaster is going to happen to them. “Bad things happen to other people who can’t handle their alcohol.”
Newsflash: we won’t be talking college students into sober weekends anytime soon, at least not as a general trend. While it would be of great benefit to avoid alcohol altogether this blog is aimed at helping the student who is choosing to drink this weekend to smarten it up a bit.
Have a Plan – Going out to party without a plan has risks. Having a plan just means getting clear about where you are going, about what time you want to leave, how you are getting home, who you will be with, and a limit to how many drinks/how much alcohol you are going to drink. True, consumption of alcohol has a way of altering judgment and plans. But going with absolutely no plan is a great way to have an ugly ending to the night.
Imagine Some Worst-Case Scenarios Before You Have Your First Drink – This isn’t a mind trick. It’s good to acknowledge that all alcohol use contains risk. It’s also good to acknowledge that there is some objective point of consumption that will result in something happening that isn’t good, even though you aren’t sure what it might be. So imagine sitting in the back of a cruiser with cuffs chafing your wrists while the red lights flood the area and light up your car 35 yards in the distance. Imagine waking up the next day with a headache that feels like someone is living in your head swinging a sledgehammer. Imagine a sexual encounter that results in something completely unintended or an assault charge. This is a reasonable mental check you can do with yourself quietly before you go out for the evening.
Go Late/ Leave Early – This one is often driven by your personality but it can really make a difference. “Smarter” means less risk and less exposure. Consciously, delay your arrival to the party and speed up your departure time.
Have a ride set – There is no excuse now. It’s called Uber and Lyft.
Drink Water to Reduce Alcohol Consumption – Take water with you. Refill it. Not only will you be better hydrated you’ll feel fuller and drink less. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can dilute alcohol though. All alcohol consumed will pass through your liver and brain no matter how much water, coffee, or other non-alcoholic beverages you drink. If you are at a day-long outdoor event with alcohol around, consider a small camelback. You’ll almost certainly drink less alcohol and be more hydrated.
Drink beer over liquor – No surprise, beer has less alcohol, ounce per ounce, than liquor. And just avoid doing shots, unless you really like the Russian roulette effect of blacking out.
Go With a Trusted Friend who Doesn’t Have a Drinking Problem – if your friend and cohort drinks liberally on a regular basis you might want to rethink what you are doing. Heavy drinkers have problems ahead sooner or later. You become like your friends.
Immediately Leave Situations That Feel Risky– Listen to your gut. Get used to internally ranking risk on a 1-10 scale. If you are in a situation that feels beyond your risk tolerance, just leave as fast and safely as possible. You can probably find 2-3 better options for your evening within minutes.
Hang Out with Fitness Fanatics – Fit and drunk are the opposite. I’m not naïve to think that lots of people in their 20s think they can be fit and party but the more health and fitness-focused you are, the more drinking becomes problematic and you develop a built-in reason to moderate your drinking.
No Unattended Drinks – Leaving an open drink unattended in 2019 is one of the higher risk things you can do in a college drinking environment but people still do it. Your choice of course.
Know About Drug Interactions – Be educated about, and avoid any medications 6 hours beforehand if those medications can interact negatively/harmfully with alcohol. Many people don’t know that even aspirin mixed with alcohol can present a variety of problems.
Seek Confidential Help if You Have Had One or More Bad Experiences Involving Alcohol in The Last 12 Months – Do you feel conflicted or regretful about recent alcohol use because of negative consequences from overdoing it? Negative consequences financially? Legally? Socially? Romantically? Sexually?… fill in the blank. If you find yourself with regrets about your use of alcohol, maybe talking to someone privately about it in a low-key environment could be helpful. You don’ have to go to an AA meeting or bare your soul in a public group in order to understand yourself better. Reach out to us online or call us directly if you would like to talk more about drinking smarter.