Keep Fresh: Navigating the Drinking and Drug Culture at University

Content warning: includes mention of drug and alcohol use.

The present article does not encourage or condone the use of illegal substances and is not endorsed by the QMU. These tips are intended for harm reduction only. 

If you have spent even just one day in sunny Murano, you will have probably been exposed to it all: the henry-the-hoover-like snorting, the pill-taking, and the morning drinking, afternoon drinking, evening drinking, late night drinking. Feel overwhelmed? Keep reading: in this article, we are going to go through some basic information to help you cope with the drug and drinking culture at uni. We promise to be concise and sweet, and to please your mental echo chamber to the reassuring sound of ‘stay hydrated!’ along the way. 

Make your own independent decisions…

First and foremost, always remember that you do not have to take part. Not everyone is going to appreciate the thought of indulging in ket-induced paralysis on an average Tuesday night, and there is much more to recreational life at uni than escaping sobriety at all costs. Don’t let the pressure get to you: only do what you’re comfortable and happy doing.  

…but get informed first. 

Especially when thinking about trying a drug for the first time, it is vital that you do some research on its main effects and contraindications: this will help you establish whether you want to go through with the experience or not. While you shouldn’t consult unnecessarily demonising sources, be wary of ones that gloss over risks. For a good starting point, you can have a look at https://dancesafe.org, https://www.drugwise.org.uk or https://www.talktofrank.com.

You should also remember that alcohol is a drug too, and a very damaging one at that! While it’s easy to pretend that binge drinking is no biggie, don’t underestimate the negative consequences it could have on your health. 

Get the dosing right.

Both when drinking and taking drugs, paying close attention to amounts is crucially important. Though there certainly are guidelines based on one’s body type, the correct dose looks different for each one of us, which means you should never try to play catch up. The general rule to finding an amount that works for you is to start by taking less rather than more and work your way from there based on how you feel. When drinking, it can be useful to premix your drink in a separate bottle while you’re still sober and try to stick to that amount. 

Mind your mixing. 

Mixing is generally a bad idea, as it increases the likelihood of things going wrong when taking drugs and it makes you more prone to getting sick when drinking. This means you should approach it with extra caution. If you do end up mixing different types of alcohol, try to stick to similar volumes or to only go up. Painkillers and prescription meds should also be taken into account: it is important that you make sure to always check they won’t interact in dangerous ways with whatever else you’re wanting to take.

Choose your company well. 

Being under the effect of a substance means you’ll be more vulnerable to external threats and to the possibility of feeling unwell: because of this, you should make sure to only drink or take drugs when surrounded by people you know you can trust, and that at least one of them is sober enough to take care of you should things go wrong. 

Get some testing kits…

In order to minimise risks and to know what it is that you’re taking, testing your drugs is always a good idea. Do not just assume that whatever you bought is fine because of your positive purchase history with a dealer or of their reputation: the drug trade is illegal and there is no way to ever really know or predict how the overall quality levels of what’s on the market might change. You can easily find cheap testing kits online, which will ship to your door in conveniently plain packaging. Buying in bulk tends to be more convenient. You could consider sharing the expense with friends, so that you can all save some money and be collectively safer.

…which entails planning your substance use. 

This is a good thing. Improvisation may lead you at the very best to paying twenty quid for some underwhelming paracetamol or, if you’re sold something dangerous, to putting yourself and others at serious risk. Don’t be silly. 

Keep your relationship with alcohol and other drugs under control. 

Try to establish a healthy relationship with substance use: as good as it might make you feel in the moment, drinking or taking other drugs on a regular basis is not going to solve your problems, and it is bound to make them worse in the long run. If you find yourself craving drink or drugs through the day or perceive your substance use turning into a coping mechanism, do not underestimate the possibility of addiction. In case you find yourself stuck, remember that there is a wide support network ready to help you. Here are some useful links: 

Counselling & Psychological Services – Glasgow University
Free counselling service provided by the University of Glasgow. https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/counselling/

Peer Support – Glasgow University
To get some support from a fellow Glasgow University student.
https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/counselling/peersupport/

Big White Wall
A free 24/7 online support service.  https://www.bigwhitewall.com/v2/LandingV2.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f

Alcohol and Drug Recovery Centres
Local recovery centres offering a multitude of services. http://www.scottishdrugservices.com/Home/Details/52   (Glasgow West)
http://www.scottishdrugservices.com/Home/Details/147 (Glasgow South-West)

Don’t drink on an empty stomach.

Seriously, don’t do it, unless you have a secret enjoyment for blacking out and having to cope with particularly nasty hangovers. 

Drink plenty of water. 

Make sure you stay well-hydrated, both while drinking and before going to bed: this is going to make you feel better on the following day. 

If you are taking ecstasy, try not to under or overhydrate, as most issues occurring while on the drug are linked to absent or excessive water consumption. Having 500 ml (roughly two glasses) of water every hour will do the job. 

Pick your setting carefully. 

Not everyone likes to be drunk or on drugs in a club. Try to determine which setting would make you feel most comfortable, especially if you’re not familiar with how the substance you are planning to take is going to feel. This is a particularly important point when wanting to experiment with psychedelics. 

We hope you have a wonderful time at university and, above it all, that you stay safe. 

[Anonymous]

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