Decisions about substance use are personal. It’s your right and responsibility to make decisions for yourself. If, how often and how much you drink or use other drugs are your choices. Your best bet is to make informed choices and understand potential consequences.
Let’s Define a Drink
How Many Drinks Are in Your Drink?
Sometimes students will take cups and drink out of a ‘common source’ – a large, unmarked container, such as a punchbowl, trough or even a lined trash barrel. Besides the sanitary concerns, drinking from these kinds of containers is dangerous because students don’t know how much alcohol is in their cup. Adding to the hazardousness, these concoctions tend to be fruity and/or sweet to hide the taste of the alcohol, and it may be mixed with energy drinks. Ingredients in energy drinks are unsafe to mix with alcohol because the stimulant effect of the energy drink gives drinkers a false sense of how intoxicated they are getting. Avoid drinking from these ‘common sources’.
High Risk And Low Risk Drinking
|High Risk||Low Risk|
Know Your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Blood Alcohol Concentration is the percentage of your blood volume that is alcohol. If you choose to drink, the safest option is to know how much alcohol your drink contains and limit the amount of alcohol you are consuming within a given time frame.
A BAC below 0.05 enables a drinker to feel the positive effects of alcohol without minimizing their judgment or increasing their risk of negative outcomes.
Some tips for keeping BAC below 0.05 include:
Pace and Space: sip your drink, alternate with non-alcoholic beverages, and don’t drink more than 1 standard drink per hour.
Eat before and while drinking: having food in your stomach slows the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream.
Don't mix alcohol with other drugs or medications.
Are you sick or tired? If so, know that your body will metabolize alcohol more slowly.
Beyond .05 BAC is when a person will experience more unpleasant and usually unwanted effects of alcohol use including impaired judgment, loss of coordination, slurring speech, blackouts, vomiting or alcohol overdose.
Interested In Calculating Your BAC?
Visit the B4U Drink Educator. This website, designed by The Century Council (funded by distillers), includes a Virtual Bar where you can estimate your BAC before you go out. http://www.b4udrink.org/
Signs Of Alcohol Overdose
An alcohol overdose is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. It is important to call for help right away if you see any of these signs of alcohol overdose:
- Irregular breathing (8 breaths a minute or 10 seconds or more between any two breaths)
- Vomiting while passed out and they don’t wake up while vomiting or afterward
- Skin is pale, cold and/or bluish-purple
- Person is unresponsive to pinching
Call 911 or Campus Safety and Security. Don’t wait. Minutes can be critical.
Concerned About Yourself Or A Friend?
At times, you may become concerned about your own or a friend’s use of alcohol or other drugs. Problematic use of substances can affect a person’s academics, relationships, and mental and physical health. A party culture that involves heavy alcohol or other drug consumption can have a negative impact on the larger campus community. There is no specific measurement to determine when substance use becomes “too much” and crosses over the line from social to unhealthy. However, the following signs may indicate that a problem exists; the greater the number of signs on the list, the greater the concern.
Signs that someone may be having a problem with alcohol or other drugs
- Daily functioning is impaired, e.g. hygiene, class or work attendance or performance, relationships, attention and memory, etc.
- The student or someone else has expressed concerns about their use
- The student appears to be under the influence while in class or at work
- The student or someone else has been injured as a result of their substance use
- The student has encountered legal or disciplinary problems as a result of their substance use
- The student has experienced blackouts or brownouts (memory lapses) as a result of their substance use
- The student engages in high-risk behaviors, such as binge drinking, drinking and driving, having unprotected sex under the influence, etc.
- The student expresses guilt or remorse about their substance use or behavior when under the influence
- The student seems preoccupied with alcohol/drug use, e.g. when they will next drink/use
- The student seems reliant on alcohol or drugs, e.g. drinks in the morning, can’t go without smoking for a day, “has to” drink or get high in social situations, etc.
- The student has an increase in drug tolerance (they need more of the drug to achieve the same effect as they did at lesser amounts).
- The student is mixing two or more drugs when they “party”.
If you have concerns about alcohol or other drugs, you are encouraged to make an appointment with the Substance Abuse Educator, Laini Sporbert, in the Health Center. She can help you assess the role that alcohol and/or drugs play in your life, and make recommendations for further help or healthier consumption. She can also help you assist a roommate or friend who is using too much. For further information, or to make an appointment, call the Health Center at 413 597 3165.
Alcohol And Academic Performance
Even one night of heavy drinking can affect a person’s learning and memory retention for up to 48 hours. For example, if you drink on a Saturday night in hopes of cramming all day Sunday for an exam on Monday, your brain will still be recovering from the effects of Saturday night while you are sitting in class on Monday.
Alcohol use also interferes with the body’s sleep cycle, robbing you of necessary REM sleep. The results include the foggy-headed feeling of a hangover, as well as fatigue and irritability the next day.
Academic performance and AOD Use: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED537642.pdf
A Word About Other Drugs
Medications taken without a prescription, and illegal drugs, such as marijuana, can have many adverse effects on students. Students are strongly encouraged to resist engaging in these activities. A person’s behavior may become erratic when using these substances.
Though medical marijuana was approved in Massachusetts in 2012, its possession and use is not legal on campus due to it being against federal law. Schools that receive federal funding (for financial aid, for research grants, etc.) need to adhere to federal laws.
Students who are on medications have been evaluated by a medical professional, and oftentimes, have tried a few different kinds and dosages of drugs to most closely correct the student’s condition with fewer negative side effects. Taking someone else’s prescription medication is illegal and risky, and the results may be unpredictable at the very least, and can be fatal in some cases.
Support For Students Seeking Sobriety
Being on a college campus can be difficult for students seeking sobriety or in recovery from substance abuse. The Substance Abuse Educator is available to help students navigate college while remaining substance-free, and is able to advocate for the needs of students in recovery. For further information, or to make an appointment, call the Health Center at 413 597 3165.
Williams’ Alcohol and Other Drugs policy: http://dean.williams.edu/policies/alcohol-and-drugs/
Finding treatment: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
For students in recovery:
Hazelden, A resource for recovery support services: http://www.hazelden.org/
Alcoholics Anonymous, A national organization for support for alcohol abuse: http://www.aa.org/
Narcotics Anonymous, A national organization for support for drug abuse: http://www.na.org/