I frequently work with the teens and young adults in the college age that deal with the outcomes of drinking too much. The stories are extremely upsetting and the costs can be more than a bad morning with a handover. I have seen drinking games and binge drinking episodes lead to experiences of sexual assault (never means the victim is to blame - you aren't!), alcohol poisoning and failing out of school or losing one's job. For some individuals, the partying turns excessive and becomes more about having to drinking than even wanting to. It changes the brain over time and can impact other mental health disorders, such as intensifying depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking. Often it can be paired with an eating disorder as well. My immediate tips as we move into the holiday times where everything is about excess is to do the following.
1. PLAN for your safety - If you are a young adult going out, do everything you can to increase the safety around drinking. This includes having a sober driver either in your group or a plan ahead of time of how you will get to/home from the party. Be extremely careful about shared ride experiences, as these are not always going to guarantee your safety. If you choose to take those rides, never ride alone. Have someone with you and remain awake and alert in those rides, know where the safety button is on your phone to alert the shared ride carrier if you are unsafe in the vehicle (these exist adn are extremely helpful!). Check the license plate and driver before you enter into the car. There have been numerous times in the past where the worst has happened because someone was not alert and went into the wrong car. It is safest to have a sober-sister or friend that will agree to ensure that the entire group is safe and accounted for both in ride and in number. This person will remain alert and aware of where everyone is and that no one is leaving the crowd.
2. Monitor your drinking - Make a plan before hand of how much you will drink. This may sound funny, but it's important for many people. The reason for this is that many of us when nervous may just sit and sip to decrease the social anxiety. This can lead to losing track of your consumption quickly. In addition, choose drinks that allow you to know how much alcohol is in it. That means staying away from the "unknown punch." Watch your drink being made and never, ever leave your drink unattended. I have come across many sad stories of people's drinks being spiked without their knowledge. It is also incredibly important to eat normally throughout the day and snack while drinking as well. College age people will frequently have the "drink your dinner" mentality and again, this can lead to bad things happening. You will be impacted by the same drink much more when you are not eating throughout the day.
3. Get help! If you notice you're doing these things and your friends can stop drinking or not think about it until the weekend and you can't - then you might have a problem. There's nothing to be ashamed about. There are many people who suffer from addiction. The earlier you get help the better. Addiction is a progressive disease and will take more and more over time.
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