Tips for Safer Celebrating over the Holidays


​A message from Andrea Medley, FNHA Indigenous Wellness Educator


'Tis the season to be jolly – and that, of course, includes getting together for parties! Whether they're friends' house parties, bush parties, or get-togethers around a fire, parties often involve alcohol, cannabis and possibly other substances. So, there is one very important thing we should all keep in mind beyond bringing our dancing shoes – partying safely and getting home safely when the party's over! In this message, I'll share some good ideas for doing that. 

1. Make a safety plan. This may seem self-explanatory, but the first step before going out to a party is to make a little plan for ourselves! Think about where the party is, and who we are we going with. Are we probably going to drink or use drugs? Is this something new for us, or is it something we like to do from time to time? It's important for us to think about what we do before we make a decision, because it can be hard to know what we really want in the moment if we haven't spent time thinking about it.

2. Plan a ride home. It's winter! It's cold. How are we getting home, or to our friend's house? We want to make sure that we and the people we're with aren't driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that we aren't stranded in the middle of nowhere. So let's take some time to think about how we're going to get home.

3. Have a good meal and drink a lot of water. Sharing a meal with friends is a good idea all around—it gives us a chance to talk about our plans for the night, and if we are choosing to drink alcohol, it can help us from getting too drunk. Drinking on an empty stomach makes us cranky, anyway, so make sure to have a bite to eat! 

4. Stay close to friends. Friends take care of each other! Whether we're helping our friend avoid a creep, watching their bag, handing them a glass of water, or checking for signs of an overdose, we're making sure our friends are good. 

5. Go slow. If we're thinking of drinking for the first time, it's not a great idea to start with a giant cup of tequila—makes more sense to start with a cooler or beer and see how we feel, right? The same goes for any other substance—start with a little bit and see how we feel, because it's harder to control our bodies once we've had too much, and that isn't a fun feeling. 

6. If mixing substances, be careful. Mixing drugs and alcohol can be scary, because it can increase the effects of whatever we are using in a way we don't have control over, and it can be harder on our bodies. If we are mixing substances, make sure that our friends are there with us, that we are in a safe environment, and that we are starting with small amounts.

7. Bring condoms … just in case. If we think we might have sex, bring condoms and lube. If we don't think we're going to have sex, bring condoms anyway, because it's better to have them on hand if we need them, plus we can share them with our friends. We may be looking out for our crush, be meeting our partner, or interested in finding someone new—whatever the reason, stay safe by bringing a condom, learning how to use a condom, and learning about consent, especially if we are using substances. 

8. Know who to call for help. If we are worried about our safety, or our friend gets too drunk, or we are just plain done with the party, who can we call? Having someone who will take our call in the middle of the night if things don't feel right – or if we're not feeling it – should be part of our plan. If we are worried someone has had an overdose, we should always call 9-1-1 or emergency responders, and learn how to respond to an overdose.

9. Avoid using drugs alone. Many people are dying of overdose inside private residences, often when they are alone. ​If you suspect an overdose, save a life by calling 911. Learn more here about overdose prevention and naloxone and overdose preven​tion sites, supervised consumption services and drug checking here.

I hope you will consider these tips and reflect on what you can do to be sure you and your friends have a good time and stay safe! Enjoy the holiday season!

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