It's the holiday season and that means a lot of opportunities to get together and celebrate. While we're out enjoying ourselves, let's be mindful about how to keep ourselves safe as some parties may involve alcohol, cannabis and possibly other substances. Here are some tips that will help make sure you have a good time and also make it home safely.
1. Make a safety plan. This may seem self-explanatory but the first step before going out to a party is to make a safety plan. Things to consider are: where is this party, who is going to be there, and will you and your friends be drinking alcohol or using drugs. Also consider if this is something that you've done before or will this be an experience that you're unfamiliar with. It's important to think through your plans and not leave it to the last minute because it can be hard to know what we really want to do in the spur of the moment.
2. Plan a ride home. Part of having a safety plan is knowing how you're going to get home. Talk about who will be the designated driver, and make sure whoever is driving isn't under the influence of alcohol or substances. This is especially important since winter driving conditions can be challenging at the best of times. Having a plan to get home safely also means you're not stranded without a ride or forced to take a ride with someone who shouldn't be driving.
3. Have a good meal and drink a lot of water. Sharing a meal with friends is a good idea all around—it gives you a chance to talk about the plans for the night. The food will help to slow the absorption of alcohol in your system and keep your blood alcohol in check.
4. Take care of your friends. It's important for friends to have each other's backs. There are many things we can do to make sure everyone has a fun and safe time. That includes watching each other's drinks and not leaving them unattended. You could even try using a drink cover. Look out for your friends by making sure they're drinking enough water and avoiding unwanted sexual attention. And always keep an eye out for the signs of toxic drug poisoning.
5. Go slow. Start low and go slow. It's safer to start with small amounts and pace yourself throughout the evening. For example, you could start the night with a cooler or beer instead of drinking shots. Same goes for using any substances. This way you can see how you're feeling after just a little bit, and don't have to worry about taking too much, too quickly.
6. If mixing substances, be careful. Mixing drugs and alcohol can be scary because it can increase the effects of whatever we're using. If substances are being mixed, make sure you're around people you trust and are in a safe environment. And remember to start low and go slow.
7. Bring condoms… just in case. It's always good to be prepared. Even if you don't plan on having sex, it's important to have protection with you just in case your plans change. That means having condoms or lube – and even if you don't use them, a friend may need them. Learning how to use a condom and learning about consent are especially important if using substances.
8. Know who to call for help. It's always a good idea to have someone you trust as a person you can call for help as part of your safety plan. This person is someone you know will take your call – even in the middle of the night – if you or your friends need support. If you think someone has had a toxic drug poisoning, then always call 9-1-1 or emergency responders, and learn how to respond to a toxic drug poisoning.
9. Avoid using drugs when you're alone. Many people are dying of toxic drug poisoning inside private residences, often when they are alone. If you suspect a toxic drug poisoning, save a life by calling 911 and by learning more about naloxone, drug checking, and overdose prevention sites and services.
10. Plan some healthy activities. With all the parties and holiday eating, it's good to plan some activities that don't include alcohol. You could go for a snowshoe, walk or hike, or have a family swim or movie. And let's not forget that the holidays can be emotionally hard for some of us. Support friends and family who are in recovery by having fun, alcohol-free drinks at parties. And if someone says that they don't want a drink, don't ask why.