Aerial photo of Old Main and Chautauqua Park.

Heightened emotions at the beginning of the semester, including excitement and stress, can influence people to use alcohol or drugs differently than they normally would. After an unpredictable year, it’s understandable that some people may want to let loose or throw parties. If you choose to drink or use other substances, here are some things to keep in mind.

Use mindfully

If you choose to drink or use other substances, think through the experiences you want to have as well as those you want to avoid. Remember that not everyone uses substances while in college. If you choose not to use, that’s okay too.

Here are a few examples to help you use more intentionally:

If I use ___[substance]___, I want to…

  • meet new people.
  • lower my inhibitions and socialize more easily.
  • blow off steam or escape from stress, anxiety, etc.

If I use ___[substance]___, I don’t want to…

  • lose control, pass out, black out or forget what happened.
  • overdose or experience alcohol poisoning.
  • do something I’ll regret (e.g. hook up with someone, get into a fight, text an ex, etc.).
  • deal with hangovers or comedowns.
  • feel pressured into doing something I wouldn’t otherwise do.

If you’re interested in exploring your relationship with substances or learning more about alcohol and other drugs, check out our Alcohol and Other Drugs resource page

Pick and choose 

Going out can be fun, but if you’re tired, need to make it to work or just need some downtime, it’s okay to stay in. Prioritize your own needs and what will make you feel good long term, not just in the moment.

If you choose to drink, be mindful of how alcohol may affect you:

First, thinking is dampened.

  • Reduced social anxiety
  • Increased positive feeling
  • Louder, more daring, more energetic

Then, body control is dulled.

  • Motor skills slowed, slurred speech, fumbling
  • Misinterpretation of the social environment likely
  • Vision and reaction time impaired
  • Muscle control is diminished, stumbling is likely
  • Sexual function is impaired

Finally, basic body functions are impaired.

  • Unable to stand
  • Danger of vomiting, choking
  • Passing out
  • Breathing and blood circulation are impaired
  • Involuntary peeing or pooping
  • Danger of death

Stay hydrated

If you choose to drink, eat a snack or meal and drink water before you start drinking. It’s also important to stay hydrated as you go. Try switching between water and alcoholic drinks throughout the night. You can also bring a snack or pick-up takeout on your way if you get hungry.

Set a limit and stick to it

Photo of different drink sizes based on a red solo cup, including 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer each count as one drink.Alcohol affects everyone differently. Some of us may have a higher tolerance or different drinking limits. Set a limit that feels right for you and stick to it. It can be helpful to enlist a friend to keep both of you accountable for your drinking. Remember to drink at your own pace and avoid trying to keep up with others.

If you ever feel pressured to do things you’re uncomfortable with, know your “no.” For instance, if you’re done drinking, consider filling your cup with water to avoid additional refills or if you’re ready to leave, remind your friends that you have work or studying to do in the morning for a smooth goodbye. Knowing serving sizes can also help you know how many drinks you’ve had: 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer each count as one drink.

A typical plastic cup holds 16 oz. which is more than 'one drink.'


Avoid mixing

Avoid mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. This is a common cause of overdose. Additional unwanted experiences include passing out, blacking out, feeling sick and doing something regrettable. 

Fentanyl detected in Boulder County

Fentanyl (an opiate roughly 50 times stronger than heroin) has been detected in Boulder County and is responsible for several overdose deaths.

Fentanyl can be mixed in with drugs that look like prescriptions, including Xanax and Oxycodone. It can also show up in non-prescription drugs like MDMA and cocaine. Receiving drugs as prescribed from a pharmacy is the only way to know it does not contain fentanyl.

If you choose to use, be sure to carry Naloxone (brand name Narcan) in case of an overdose. Naloxone is available for free with a Buff OneCard at the Wardenburg Health Center Pharmacy.

Learn about fentanyl and how to respond to an overdose

Get home safe

Make plans with friends before going out and stick to them. If plans need to change, talk about it together. Ensure that everyone gets home safe by designating a driver, taking public transit or using a rideshare like Lyft or Uber. Never leave someone behind with people you just met or don’t know very well.

No means no

Sometimes drinking can lead to unintended consequences (like hooking up with your roommate or kissing your ex). Navigating sex can be complicated, especially if alcohol or other drugs are involved. Check out this article to learn how alcohol and other drugs can affect sex and consent.

Take care of your friends

If someone is exhibiting signs of alcohol poisoning or an overdose, call 911 for help.

If you see someone with these symptoms, they may be experiencing alcohol poisoning:

  • Passed out and unresponsive
  • Fewer than 12 breaths per minute
  • Vomiting while passed out
  • Pale/bluish or cool/clammy skin
  • Uncontrolled peeing or pooping

If you see someone with these symptoms, they may be experiencing a drug overdose:

  • Pinpoint (small) pupils
  • Shallow or no breathing
  • Blue or grayish lips/fingernails
  • No response to stimulus (i.e. being pinched)
  • Gurgling/heavy wheezing or snoring sound

Call 911. While you wait for paramedics to arrive, do the following:

  • 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/Narcan (it will not harm a person who is not experiencing an overdose, so if in doubt, use it)


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 intoxicated individual until help arrives, and put them into the recovery position if they are exhibiting signs of alcohol poisoning.
  • Cooperate with staff and emergency responders.
  • For more information about the Amnesty policy visit the Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution's website or review the Student Code of Conduct.

Additional resources

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. Workshops include:

  • Exploring Substance Use
  • Alcohol Impact Circles
  • Buffs Discuss Substance Use
  • Early Intervention
  • and more

*Workshops are not considered therapy or substance abuse treatment.

Collegiate Recovery Center (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides meetings and support groups, 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 or sign up to receive notifications about events and other activities

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