photo of students partying and dancing

Hanging out with friends and late-night gatherings can give us a chance to unwind from academics and connect with others. Striking a balance between fun and safety, especially if you choose to drink or use other substances, can ensure you have a better night out.  

Here are some strategies you can use to stay safe, look out for each other and enjoy going out with friends. 

1. Choose for yourself 

People commonly make some assumptions about partying in college. You may assume that everyone parties, that it’s normal to party every weekend or that it’s the best way to meet people. Partying is often represented this way on social media and other students may emphasize the party scene in Boulder, but those perceptions are often skewed. It’s important to remember that everyone has the opportunity to decide what they want for their own college experience.  

If you choose to drink or use other substances, think about what you want your night out to look like. Knowing what you want and how to achieve that can help you think of ways to avoid experiences you don’t want, such as blacking out, accidentally overdosing, doing something you’ll regret or having a hangover.  

2. Set limits 

Setting limits around partying can help ensure that you have a positive experience. Here are a few examples: 

  • Social circle: Be thoughtful about the people you surround yourself with. It makes a difference if you are with people who will have your back, prioritize everyone’s safety and look out for each other, especially if something goes sideways or someone has too much to drink.
  • Number of drinks: Substances affect everyone differently and knowing your limit is a learning process. Your limit may look different from those around you, and that’s okay. Consider enlisting a friend to help you stick to a limit that works for you or let you know when they think you’ve had enough.
  • Frequency: College can be a hectic time, and it can be helpful to set limits around how often you want to consume alcohol, use substances or attend parties. Consider limiting the number of nights or events you attend each week or month. This can help you avoid potential burnout and the impacts it may have on other areas in your life.
  • Party duration: Knowing when to call it a night can help you maintain control and avoid overconsumption. Make a plan with your friends to ensure that everyone makes it home safely and nobody gets left behind.
  • Types of parties: Consider setting limits around the number and types of parties you’re willing to attend. For instance, you may not be willing to go “party-hopping” or only want to attend parties where you know who’s hosting. 

3. Have an out 

Whether you’re trying to avoid peer pressure or leave a party, it’s important to have an out. Consider your exit strategies before you go out with friends. This will help you be better prepared to address the situation in the moment. 

Avoid peer pressure 

  • If you’re done drinking, you can fill your cup with water or a non-alcoholic beverage to avoid unwanted refills.
  • There are plenty of ways to have fun at a party if you don’t want to drink. Get on the dance floor, watch others play games or just spend time talking with people. 
  • Rely on your friends to help you if someone is being pushy about drinks or other substances. They may be able to intervene or redirect the situation, especially if you’re struggling to do it yourself. 

Leave a party 

  • Before you attend a party or gathering, plan how you’ll get home. Make sure your friend group is on the same page, your phones are charged and you have enough money for transportation if needed. 
  • If you’re feeling uncomfortable or want to go home, confide in your trusted friends. Let them know you’re ready to leave and ask someone to go with you. 
  • You can always make up an excuse to get out of the party. It’s okay to say you have work in the morning, you have a family emergency or you aren’t feeling well. Do what you need to take care of yourself. 

    4. Help prevent overdoses 

    Sometimes things can go badly or take an unexpected turn. This can include a person experiencing alcohol poisoning or an accidental overdose at a party. Knowing how to respond and get the person help can save their life. 

    If an emergency situation unfolds, here’s what you can do: 

    Watch for signs of an overdose: 

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

    How to respond:

    • Immediately call 911 and wait for help to arrive. 
    • Make sure the person is in a safe area to avoid injury. 
    • Turn the person on their side and put them in the recovery position
    • Administer naloxone (it’s safe to use even if someone is not overdosing or you’re unsure what substances they may have used). 
    • Never leave a severely intoxicated person alone or with someone who is not a trusted friend. 

    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.

    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. 


    If you're looking to explore your relationship with substances, explore the impacts of alcohol and sex, 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

    Health Promotion offers free workshops to help students reflect on their relationship with alcohol and other substances. 

    • 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 weekly support meetings, substance-free activities and other resources for those considering, pursuing or actively in recovery from drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, self-harm, other addictions and unwanted behaviors.

    Free sexual health workshop

    Explore boundary-setting, consent, pleasure, the impact of alcohol on sex and sexual assault prevention during this interactive workshop presented by the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). 

    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, but not limited to, sexual assault and harassment. 

     Confidential resource