Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Old School—most college films share at least one scene where the characters have a fabulous party with fantastic music, a full house, and flowing alcohol. It’s such a common film trope that it’s hard to separate fiction from reality. Today, approximately 40% of students report binge drinking at least once in their college experience. While that is a substantial number, it is not the majority and clearly some students choose not to engage at all. Using alcohol may seem like a rite of passage in the dorms, and as you move towards independence you may be curious about using alcohol. This is normal, many students use alcohol in college. However, know that even under the influence your actions have consequences. In the United States the legal drinking age is 21. Should you choose to drink alcohol here are some helpful tips
No is always an option, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not
No matter how many college themed movies you have seen, or epic stories you have heard passed down, not many start with the protagonist saying “nah, I’ll pass.” In the real world remember that no is always an option, and you don’t even need an excuse. Peer pressure is a very real phenomenon, and it is extremely prevalent on college campuses. When all your (sometimes new) friends are gearing up to get crazy it can be extremely easy to hop on the party train. However, if you don’t want to partake a simple “no thank you” should be sufficient. You have lots of choices—maybe you want to go out but not drink, maybe you want to stay in and have some quiet time. No matter the reason, know that you don’t have to drink a sip of alcohol if you don’t want to, and you can stop at any point.
If you plan on drinking, don’t drive and if you drive, don’t drink. It is that simple. There are so many options for travel that there is no need to endanger yourself or others by getting behind the wheel. Everyone is different, but it is possible to be impaired by as few as one drink in an hour. Your safety, and the safety of those around you is extremely important, but consider this as well: between the fines, the possible time in jail, potential lawsuits, the decimation of your driving record and your insurance rates you are placing your livelihood and education at risk—because you didn’t want to take an Uber? Make a plan and stick to it—take a cab, ride share, bus or walk.
Water is your friend
Dehydration is the most significant factor determining a hangover. The smartest way to stay hydrated is to incorporate H2O into your party routine. Before you leave the house drink lots of water. If you choose to drink alcohol, alternate between water and booze. Incorporate water into your beverages—instead of having a shot, order a drink on the rocks. When you get home make drinking water the last thing you do before your head hits the pillow. Staying hydrated is key, water is your friend.
Know your limits
If you are new to the drinking scene, the time to determine your limits is not on your maiden voyage. If you go out and have 10 drinks, get sick, and feel like garbage the next day, that doesn’t mean your limit is 10 drinks. Drinking to the point of illness means that you have exceeded your limitations, putting yourself in a dangerous situation. You do not need to develop a tolerance to alcohol, and you certainly do not have to do so by drinking beyond excess. Determining your limits takes time, start with one drink (and water) and see how that goes. If you choose to do so, have another and see how you feel. Drinking alcohol can be fun, but going beyond your limits is not only unsafe for your body, it affects your mind as well, leaving you sluggish and incapable of making smart decisions. Remember, you are a student and your job is to learn. If you drink to excess, you may be wasting an extremely valuable opportunity.
You are unique
You and your roommate may be able to share clothes and shoes, and both love pizza with extra oregano, but that does not mean that you share the same limits for alcohol. You may weigh the same, be the same height, have eaten the same amount of food prior to drinking, and alcohol may affect you completely differently. Likewise, you may be able to wake up and shake off a hangover without any trouble whereas your roommate may lay in bed crying for his mother. Just like you are under no obligation to drink alcohol, you also do not have to keep up with anyone else. Drinking is not a race, you are not pacing anyone. If your limit is 3 drinks and your neighbor’s is 5, let it go. You are unique and don’t have to drink like a fish if you are a tadpole.
Find your tribe
One of the best parts about any fun college film romp is that even the loners are never alone. There is truly someone or a group for everyone. If you elect to have a sober college experience find a group with similar values; if you want to imbibe, do so with friends you can trust. Never forget that the social part of drinking socially. Having friends around you means that there is someone watching your back, and you are responsible for watching theirs. If you see one of your mates making a questionable decision, say something, say what you would want them to tell you in a similar situation. There is safety in numbers, so find your tribe and agree to be there for each other.
Regarding alcohol, make a decision that is right for you. Be careful, be safe, and have fun.