Photo of students celebrating at a Halloween party in costumes.

Halloween weekend can be a time for costumes and parties. It can also be a time when people make choices or take risks they normally wouldn't. Check out these tips to help keep yourself and your friends safe.

Before you go out

Break down your own assumptions

Did you know that 93% of CU Boulder students find it acceptable to not drink at a party?

Many times, students come to college with expectations around drinking, partying and what it means to be a college student. Some might assume that everyone drinks or parties, that it’s normal to party every weekend or that people will judge us if we choose not to party or use substances.

Take some time to reflect on any assumptions you may have around party culture. Where do they come from (family, friends, shows, music, etc.)? Is that what you want your college experience to be like or do you have a different vision in mind? Challenging your assumptions and thinking through what you want your college experience to look like can help you make more informed choices around partying. 

Think through your ideal experience

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 to use alcohol or other substances, here are a few examples to help you be more intentional about your use:

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.
  • Have fun with my friends.

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 alcohol or other substances, there are free workshops available to help! You can meet with a trained peer or staff member to discuss your relationship with substances, understand how substances may be impacting your life and tips for making meaningful changes. 

Pick and choose 

Going out can be fun, but if you’re tired, need to study, have work in the morning 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.

Here are a few things CU Boulder students wish they would’ve known about partying and going out:

Set a limit and know your ‘no’

Alcohol affects everyone differently. This means that our tolerance and limits may look different from those around us. Before you go out, set a limit that feels right for you. It can be helpful to enlist a friend to keep you both accountable for your drinking. Remember to go at your own pace and avoid trying to keep up with others.

If you are worried you may be pressured to drink or use drugs in ways you’re not comfortable with, know your ‘no.’ These strategies can help you manage peer pressure and avoid uncomfortable situations.

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.

  • 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 that you have work in the morning. 
  • 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.

While you're out

Stay hydrated

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

Avoid mixing

Avoid mixing drugs with alcohol, including prescription medications. This can increase the risk of overdose. It can also lead to additional unwanted experiences like passing out, blacking out, feeling sick and doing something regrettable. 

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 with other substances, including non-prescriptions like MDMA and cocaine. Assume that any drug not purchased directly from a pharmacy has the potential to contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. 

If you choose to use prescription or illegal drugs, carry Naloxone (brand name Narcan) to help reverse accidental overdoses. 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.

Getting home safe

Make a plan and stick to it

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, Uber or CU NightRide. Never leave someone behind with people you just met or don’t know very well.

Take care of your friends

Take care of your friends by watching for signs of alcohol poisoning or an overdose.

 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/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 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.

Campus resources

Whether you're looking to explore your relationship with substances, register an upcoming party or connect with a recovery community, CU Boulder has resources that can help.

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.

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