Photo of solo cups set up for a round of beer pong.

While it’s technically the beginning of spring semester, winter weather is likely to stick around for a few more months. Here are five winter tips to consider if you plan on partying or drinking this semester.

1. Stay warm

Alcohol and freezing temperatures can be a bad combination. This is because we might actually feel warmer when we’re drunk. Alcohol consumption causes our blood vessels to dilate, making our skin feel warm. This effect can give us a false sense of warmth and increase the risk of hypothermia if we spend too much time outside in cold weather. 

Here are some ways to stay safe while drinking in the cold:

  • Wear multiple layers of clothing instead of a single heavy layer, such as a thick coat. Layers help insulate your body heat from the cold, which can help you stay drier and warmer than a single layer.
  • Eat high energy foods and opt for warm drinks when possible.
  • Beware of overexertion, including running from party to party or walking long distances to get home.
  • Cover areas that are most likely to suffer frostbite, including your hands, feet and ears.

2. Set your own limits

Did you know 93% of CU Boulder students support choosing not to drink at a party?

Your limit for alcohol and other substances is probably different from those around you. Be mindful of your own limits and stick to them. You can also enlist a friend to help you stay accountable at parties. If you’re not sure how much is too much, try to only drink one alcoholic beverage per hour. This will prevent you from going too far, too fast.

Here are some other strategies you can use to avoid over-drinking:

  • If you’re done drinking, consider filling your cup with water to avoid unwanted refills. 
  • If you’re ready to leave, let your friends know. It’s also okay to make an excuse to leave a party or prevent others from pressuring you to over-drink.
  • If someone at a party is making you feel uncomfortable, enlist the help of your friends to get out of sketchy situations.
  • Keep track of how many drinks you have had based on standard serving sizes (1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer each count as one drink). 
  • You can use one or all of these strategies to stay safe while celebrating. You can also come up with your own strategies if these don’t feel like a good fit for you.

Photo demonstrating standard drink sizes referenced above.

    3. Don’t use multiple substances at once

    Mixing alcohol with other substances, including prescription medications, can increase your risk of an overdose. It can also lead to unwanted consequences like passing out, blacking out, feeling sick or doing something you’ll probably regret later. 

     Avoid accidental fentanyl overdoses

    Fentanyl (an opiate roughly 50 times more powerful than heroin) has been detected in counterfeit pills circulating Boulder County, including Oxy (i.e. M30s) and Xanax. 

    Fentanyl can also be mixed into other substances, including drugs like MDMA and cocaine. Assume that any drug purchased from a friend or dealer has the potential to contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. 

    If you choose to use illicit or prescription drugs bought off the street, carry Naloxone (brand name Narcan or Kloxxado) to help reverse accidental overdoses. Naloxone is available for free with a Buff OneCard at the Health Promotion office on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center. They also provide free fentanyl test strips.

    Learn about fentanyl and how to respond to an overdose

    4. Help keep your friends safe

    Social events that have drugs and alcohol involved can increase the risk of harmful situations, including unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault. Help keep others safe by practicing bystander skills.

    Identify high risk situations

    Keep an eye on people who hit on the drunkest person at a party, encourage others to drink, try to get a drunk person alone or away from their friends, are persistent about pursuing someone sexually or commit low-level boundary violations. It’s not that people don’t understand consent, it’s that some people aren’t interested in honoring it.

    Keep track of your friends

    High-proof alcohol and ‘jungle juice’ increase the chances of people becoming overly intoxicated. It’s common for perpetrators of sexual assault to encourage alcohol consumption or target those who are drunk. It’s important to check in with a friend if you notice changes like difficulty standing, disorientation, etc. These signs can indicate that they’ve had too much to drink.

    Don’t leave friends behind

    Avoid ditching someone if they have too much to drink, even if they’re being difficult. This decreases the likelihood that someone will have to rely on less trustworthy people to get home. If you’re intoxicated and need a ride, consider using a rideshare like Lyft, Uber or CU NightRide (free for students, staff and faculty). 

    Trust your instincts

    If something feels weird or wrong, it probably is. If you see a situation that ever feels uncomfortable or unsafe, follow your gut. It’s okay to make up an excuse to interject or interrupt something that doesn’t seem right  (e.g. you don’t feel well and need them to leave with you, you need them to check on a friend, you want them to go with you to get something to eat, etc.) to disrupt an uncomfortable or problematic situation.

    5. Call for help in an emergency

    Take care of your friends by watching for signs of alcohol poisoning or an overdose. Always call 911 for help in a drug- or alcohol-related emergency.

     Signs to watch for:


    • Passed out and unresponsive
    • Slow or no breathing
    • Vomiting while passed out
    • Involuntary pooping or peeing
    • Pale/bluish or cool/clammy skin
    • Pinpoint (small) pupils
    • Gurgling, heavy wheezing or snoring sound

     How to respond:


    • Immediately call 911 and wait for help to arrive.
    • Make sure that the person is in a safe place to avoid injury.
    • Gently turn them on their side and put them in the recovery position.
    • Stay with them; never leave a severely intoxicated person alone or with someone who is not a trusted friend.
    • Administer naloxone (it will not harm a person who is not experiencing an overdose, so if in doubt, use it).

    Important policies to know

    CU Boulder Amnesty Policy

    Calling for help in an alcohol- or drug-related emergency means neither the person who calls for help nor the person who needs help will be subject to formal disciplinary sanctions by the university (i.e., probation, suspension, expulsion).  

    To be covered by the Amnesty Policy, a student must:

    • Call for help (911 or university staff).
    • Stay with the individual until help arrives.
    • Cooperate with staff and emergency responders.

    911 Good Samaritan Law

    The 911 Good Samaritan Law states that a person is immune from criminal prosecution for an offense when the person reports, in good faith, an emergency drug or alcohol overdose even to a law enforcement officer, to the 911 system or to a medical provider. 

    This same immunity applies to persons who remain at the scene of the event until a law enforcement officer or an emergency medical responder arrives, or if the person remains at the facilities of the medical provider until a law enforcement officer, emergency medical responder or medical provider arrives. The immunity described above also extends to the person who suffered the emergency drug or alcohol overdose event.

    Additional resources

    5. Look out for others 

    The reality is that most sexual assaults are carried out by friends, acquaintances, partners, exes or by a person someone has met online or at a party. Pushing substances onto someone or purusing someone who is intoxicated can be a common tactic for committing sexual assault. 

    If you’re at a party or out with friends, it’s important to keep an eye out for sketchy situations that may indicate that someone is trying to take advantage of another person through the use of alcohol or other drugs. 

    Watch out for someone who is: 

    • Coercing or pressuring someone to consume more alcohol or drugs than they are comfortable with. 
    • Initiating sexual contact with someone because they are intoxicated and less likely to resist. 
    • Isolating someone who has had too much to drink or is having a negative drug experience. 
    • Not telling someone what is in their drink or the type of dosage of drug they are ingesting. 

    If you notice these signs, be prepared to intervene or interrupt, even if you aren’t sure your reading the situation correctly. You may need to help reconnect them with trusted friends or enlist others to help ensure they can get home safely. 

    Learn more about drug-facilitated sexual assault

    6. Have fun 

    College can be a stressful time, and it’s important to take time to have some fun. Practicing these strategies can help you stay safe and enjoy your night out. 

    Party smart

    Learn how to register your party, avoid citations and ways to practice safe alcohol and drug consumption.

    Free substance use workshops

    There are a variety of workshops and classes available to support students as they reflect on their relationship with alcohol and other substances. Here are a few workshops that are available:

    • Exploring Substance Use Workshop (facilitated by trained staff members)
    • Buffs Discuss Substance Use (facilitated by trained students)

    *Workshops are not considered therapy or substance abuse treatment.

    Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC)

    The CUCRC provides support meetings, recovery-focused housing, events and activities, peer support and more for students in recovery or interested in pursuing recovery from drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, self-harm, other addictions and unwanted behaviors. 

    The CUCRC is also open for studying, socializing and drop-in support. If you’re interested in participating at the Recovery Center, be sure to check out the weekly meeting schedule.

    Free sexual assault workshops

    The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) provides free, discussion-based sessions where participants explore what ideas and messages influence our sexual decisions and communication. They’ll discuss consent, pleasure, the impact of alcohol on sex, and sexual assault.

    Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)

    CAPS provides a number of services related to substance use, including:

    • Substance use assessments
    • Brief individual therapy
    • Support for concerned friends and family members
    • Referrals to recovery and other community resources
    • Suboxone treatment

     Confidential resource

    Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

    OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event, including sexual assault and harassment.

     Confidential resource

    AcademicLiveCare (ALC)

    ALC is a free online platform that allows students to speak with licensed healthcare providers, counselors and psychiatrists for free. They offer services related to urgent care, nutrition, anxiety, depression, substance use and other mental health concerns. 

    *AcademicLiveCare does not provide crisis services.

     Confidential resource