It’s spooky season! For many of us, that means pumpkins, spooky decorations, candy, and costumes. Halloween is often a time of celebration with friends and family but it can look like and mean different things for different people. For some of us, it might involve alcohol or other substances. Alcohol and substance use doesn’t have to be a part of your Halloween plans, though. There are many ways you can have a fun substance-free holiday. If you do choose to use, we hope that you choose to do so with safety strategies in mind. We’re here to help give you some tools and strategies for keeping yourself, your friends, and your community safe when it comes to alcohol and substance use. Here are a few things to keep in mind on Halloween weekend and into the future!
Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategies
- Eat before you consume spooky drinks: Having food in your stomach before you begin consuming alcohol will slow the absorption of the alcohol which means it’ll take a bit longer for the alcohol to affect your body.
- Alternate alcohol & water: Alternating alcoholic drinks with water will help space out the amount of alcohol you consume and can help reduce the overall amount you consume in one night. Giving your body more time to process each sip of alcohol will help keep your body at a safer blood alcohol level throughout the time in which you are consuming. If you’re concerned about how drinking water instead of alcohol may be perceived by those around you, try drinking water out of the same cup you had alcohol in so it looks the same.
- Plan ahead, know your limits: If you know you’re going to be drinking, plan ahead. Be sure to have a sober ride or a safe place to sleep arranged beforehand. Knowing your limit will help keep you safe. If you know two drinks are too many for you, stick to one. Making tally marks on your cup or your hand can help you keep track of how many drinks you’ve had and help remind you when to stop drinking. Use this BAC tracker to help estimate the impact: BAC Calculator.
- Be aware of binge-drinking limits: Know that binge-drinking is having 3-4+ drinks on one occasion. Beyond knowing your own personal limits, it’s important to challenge common myths about what a “normal” amount of alcohol use is. If you do decide to engage in binge-drinking, be aware that greatly increases your risk both that night as well as in the long-term.
- Don’t mix alcohol and other drugs: It can be extremely unsafe to mix alcohol with other substances. Whether it’s a medication you take daily that has been prescribed to you by a doctor, a substance you got from a friend, one you brought yourself, or any other substance it’s never a good idea to take drugs at the same time as consuming alcohol. Alcohol and drugs can have complex interactions with one another that may produce severe reactions in your body that could be extremely damaging or fatal.
- Mix your own drinks: Mixing your own drinks is a great way to monitor how much you are consuming. If you make your own drinks, you always know how much alcohol you put in and you can gauge when you need to stop more easily. Additionally, if you make your own drink, you always have the option to make your drink and not put alcohol in it.
- Know standard pour: When mixing your own drink or drinking out of a can, know one cup/container is not always one drink. One drink, based on the standard pour, is 12 oz. Of a 5% beer, 5 oz. of a 12% wine, and 1.5 oz. of an 80-proof liquor. Pre-plan and stay mindful so you know just how many drinks you’re actually consuming.
- Drink in a safe environment: If you choose to consume, drinking with people you know and trust is best. Whether you’re planning a night without alcohol, a little bit of alcohol, or too much alcohol, you want to be confident that the people around you will be there to take care of you and keep you safe.
- Follow COVID guidelines: What can make this Halloween even more spooky is the thought of transmitting COVID. Please take precautions – plan virtual celebrations, wear face coverings, wash your hands. If you are gathering, keep groups small and know who you’re with for contact tracing purposes. The safest option is to stay home and gather virtually.
Other Substance Use Harm Reduction Strategies
- Know what substance you’re taking and where they come from: Controlled substances can come from many different places and be mixed with all sorts of foreign substances that make what you consume even less safe. If you choose to use, ensuring that you know the substance you are using, and knowing that it is coming from a trusted source, is very important.
- If using for the first time be in the presence of an experienced user that you trust: If you’re choosing to use a substance for the first time, experimenting in the presence of someone who has experience with that substance can help keep you safe. They may know signs of overdose and be able to keep you safer than someone with little or no experience. Additionally, ensuring you trust them will help keep you safe should anything bad happen.
- Don’t share needles: Sharing needles can transfer viruses and bacteria easily from one person to the next. Ensuring you use a sterile needle will help keep you safer from outside infections and illnesses. If you don’t know where to get clean needles, TPAN and The Center on Halsted offer safe, trusted syringe exchanges and other support and resources.
Ideas for a Fun, Virtual Substance-Free Halloween
- Watch Spooky movies with friends through plug-ins like Netflix party
- Decorate or carve pumpkins
- Have an “Among Us” showdown
- Play Scribble.io, a Pictionary style game
- Make a delicious meal that you always wanted to try with a roommate
- Do an activity that relaxes you (reading, baking, painting, writing letters)
- Check out fun activities clubs are hosting on DeHub
As with all of our outreach, we want to remind you that it’s important to remember, you can still have fun without using alcohol or substances. However, if you choose to use, it’s important you use as safely as possible by ensuring you’re taking the necessary steps to mitigate the risk that comes with using alcohol or other substances. Below are some other resources that you may find useful on the topics of alcohol and substance use. Additionally, The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness is always here as a resource for you. If you aren’t sure where to start, if you’re struggling, if you need support, someone to talk to, or you just want to learn more and are looking for other resources, please reach out to the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness. We are always here for you!
Office of Health Promotion and Wellness
Phone: (773) 325 – 7129
Social Media: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @healthydepaul
DePaul’s Substance Misuse Prevention Specialist – Katie Bellamy, LCPC
Phone: (773) 325 – 4550
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Action Helpline
Phone: (800) 662 – 4357
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