Photo of a field of clovers.

Some students may look forward to unwinding over St. Patrick’s Day weekend and spring break. However, it’s important to make sure they continue to make smart choices when celebrating or blowing off steam. 

Here are a few things you may want to talk to your student about before they go out for St. Paddy’s Day weekend. 

1. Normalize substance-free activities

St. Patrick’s Day is often associated with drinking and pub crawls. However, there are a lot of substance-free ways to celebrate the holiday. Encourage your student to think through what they want to do over the weekend, and remind them that it’s okay if they don’t want to drink or use other substances.  

If your student isn’t sure what to do, encourage them to check out St. Patrick’s Day events on campus

2. Have a plan in advance

Large celebrations and holiday parties can become overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to encourage your student to plan out their night or weekend in advance. Here are some ways you can help them plan ahead. 

Who’s in their group? Ask your student who they intend to go out with. You can also ask them if everyone in that group is on the same page about where they want to go and what they want to do. Remind your student that it’s best to choose a group of friends that they know will take care of them, even if things don’t go as planned. 

What will they do if their group gets separated? Encourage your student to commit to sticking together with their friends. Help them make a plan for what to do if they get separated and how they plan to meet back up. Using the ‘share my location’ feature on their phone is a great way to let others know where they are. 

How will they check in with their friends? Does your student have the phone number of everyone who they’re going out with? Encourage them to start a group chat, keep their notifications on and turn up their phone volume so they don’t miss calls or texts from the group. 

3. Make choices that are right for them

Whether your student chooses to drink or use other substances or not, you should encourage them to make choices that feel right for them. This could include saying no to a large party or gathering, heading home earlier than their friends or choosing an alternative activity. 

If your student is planning to drink or use substances, encourage them to look out for their friends and keep each other accountable. Remind them that everyone has a different tolerance and limit, so it’s important to go at their own pace, regardless of what everyone else is doing. It can also be helpful to encourage your student to set a limit before they go out. 

Here are some potential limits for your student to consider. 

  • Limiting the number of drinks they have on a single night. 
  • Sticking to one type of alcohol. 
  • Not mixing alcohol and other substances. 
  • Avoid drinking premixed beverages. Instead, opt for unopened drinks. 
  • Alternating between alcoholic beverages and water or other non-alcoholic options. 
  • Eating dinner before going out. 

4. Know their no

If your student finds themselves facing peer pressure or uncomfortable situations at a party, help them identify ways to avoid unwanted outcomes.  

Here are some strategies they can use. 

  • Fill their cup with water to avoid unwanted refills.  
  • Let their friends know when they’re ready to leave, and ask them to make sure your student gets home safely. 
  • If someone at a party is making your student feel uncomfortable, encourage them to enlist the help of friends to get out of sketchy situations. 
  • Keep track of how many drinks they 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). 

It may also be helpful to remind your student that it’s okay to choose not to drink. In fact, 93% of CU Boulder students surveyed support not drinking at parties. 

5. Be an effective bystander

Friends and bystanders play an important role when someone is vulnerable due to their level of intoxication, or if a person has been intentionally incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. This is because people who are impaired or incapacitated are unable to advocate for and protect themselves. 

Encourage your student to look out for their friends and strangers at parties or other events. If they notice something that feels ‘off,’ it probably is. They can help intervene on someone’s behalf by: 

  • Being direct. In some situations, your student may directly approach a person who may need help to ask them how they’re doing, what they may need and if they’d like assistance. 
  • Relocating. In some situations, it may be more comfortable to not be direct. If this is the case, your student can help by pulling someone out of a situation. For instance, if they notice someone is uncomfortable with a person hitting on them, they can pretend to be friends and invite that person to go with them to a different area before checking in with them. 
  • Enlisting others. Sometimes the best strategy is to alert others to a sketchy situation. This can include asking friends or other bystanders to help your student resolve a situation or help someone in need. 

Learn more about bystander intervention

6. Follow ordinances

Help your student avoid citations and other penalties by making sure they understand local, state and university ordinances.  

Some of the most common citations include:

  • Alcohol: Your student can receive a ticket for serving alcohol to a minor (even unknowingly) or if guests at their party are drinking in a public area, such as the sidewalk in front of their property. 
  • Fireworks: The use and possession of any fireworks is illegal in the City of Boulder and Boulder County. This includes sparklers, snaps, snakes, bottle rockets, roman candles and smoke bombs. Keep in mind that fireworks pose a significant fire hazard and your student can be held responsible for fireworks used by roommates or guests on their property. 
  • Noise: In the City of Boulder, people may be ticketed for unreasonable noise. This includes any amplified sound, such as speakers, that can be heard from a distance. Daytime limits from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. include noises that can be heard from more than 200 feet away. Nighttime limits from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. include noises that can be heard from more than 100 feet away. 
  • Nuisance tickets: A nuisance ticket is issued when a residence hosts a gathering that violates any Boulder ordinances, including noise, underage drinking, brawling, public urination or littering. Remind your student that if they are hosting a gathering, they can be held responsible for the actions of guests, including behaviors that warrant a nuisance ticket. 

7. Be aware of overdose risks 

Drinking too much and experimenting with substances can lead to alcohol poisoning or accidental overdoses.  

Mixing substances: Encourage your student to avoid mixing drugs with alcohol, including prescription medications. Taking more than one substance at a time can increase their risk of passing out, blacking out, feeling sick, doing something they may regret later and accidentally overdosing. 

Accepting drugs from friends: Counterfeit prescriptions and illicit drugs can contain lethal amounts of fentanyl, an opioid that is more powerful than heroin and morphine. This includes things like Xanax, Oxycontin, MDMA, cocaine and more. Make sure your student is prepared to respond to a potential overdose at a party or gathering by bringing naloxone. This nasal spray is FDA-approved to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Students can pick up free naloxone and fentanyl test strips from Health Promotion on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center. 

Make sure your student is prepared to call for help if they notice someone who is: 

  • Passed out or unresponsive 
  • Breathing slowly or not at all 
  • Vomiting while passed out 
  • Pooping or peeing involuntarily 
  • Pale, bluish, cool or clammy 
  • Making gurgling, wheezing or snoring sounds 

CU Boulder and Colorado Police have policies in place that can protect students from sanctions when they call 911 in an alcohol- or drug-related emergency. 

Connect with resources

Party registration

If your student or their roommates plan to host a party, they are encouraged to register their gathering with Off-Campus Housing & Neighborhood Relations. This provides students with the opportunity to receive a warning for noise complaints and other ordinances before officers intervene. 

Party smart tips

Knowing how to party smart can help keep your student and their friends safe. That’s why we provide harm reduction tips related to alcohol, fentanyl, marijuana, study drugs, vaping and more. Students can also review information on how to respond to an overdose, as well as protective policies like the Colorado 911 Good Samaritan Law and the CU Boulder Amnesty Policy.

Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides community support and connection for students, faculty and staff in recovery or seeking recovery from a wide range of behaviors, including substance use. 

Early intervention workshops

Our workshops provide an opportunity for individuals and small groups to gain a better understanding of their relationship with substances and gain the skills and support for behavior change. 

Follow @CUHealthyBuffs on social for more tips, events and activites.