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Oct 27 2017
by Rina Lee

4 Ways to Drink Safely This Halloween

By Rina Lee - Oct 27 2017
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As midterm season finally draws to a close with chilly leaf-strewn nights and as Halloween mania begins to show its not-so-shy face, we all know what’s coming.

Music blaring, bass thumping, glass clinking and boys shouting.

That’s right. College students are celebrating Halloween.

It’s worth mentioning that in the United States, drinking for those under 21 years old is prohibited by the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act passed by Congress. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; however, approximately 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States every year is by young adults between the ages of 12 and 20. Furthermore, more than 90% of this alcohol consumed is believed to be consumed in the form of binge drinking.

Fresh U does not encourage nor condone underage drinking. However, for those under 21, this article will provide tips on refusing unwanted drinks and staying safe during Halloween weekend. For those aged 21 or above, this article will discuss a variety of ways on how to safely drink without incurring potential health risks.

1. How to turn down a drink.

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Whether you’re underage or not into drinking, being presented with a cup of beer or the phrase, “You don’t drink? Everyone drinks,” may become increasingly irritating and annoying. You probably may have felt a little left out as well standing in a room awkwardly holding your red Solo cup and pretending that you’re drinking. You probably have also wondered at some point or the other, “Should I just drink too?”

Don’t feel pressured. Not everyone drinks! There’s no reason to feel uncomfortable about your choice of not drinking. Usually, all it takes is a polite but firm, “No, thank you.”

That said, it may get a little too confusing and long-winded having to explain (or more like shout) your decision at some curious partygoer over the crazy music. For these situations, here is a compilation of several extremely convenient excuses you can hide behind as to why you’re not drinking.

1. (Point to your untouched cup.)I already have one, no thanks!"

2. “I have a test tomorrow morning.”

3. “I need to get up really early tomorrow for work.”

4. “I’m on the ____ team. We’re in training season right now and we all have to follow this really strict diet.”

5. “I’m the designated driver.”

6. “I’m okay without one, but thanks!

2. Do not chug.

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It has now become the fashionable thing at parties to have a circle of entertainment-seekers enthusiastically cheering on their equally enthusiastic friend to “chug, chug, chug, chug.”

If you ever unfortunately find yourself in this circle of chugging enthusiasts, beware! Do not chug the eight cans of beer or the entire bottle of vodka or whatever else they may throw at you. Leave the circle as fast as you can and run far, far away.

Chugging wine or any alcohol quickly will allow a lot of alcohol to get into the bloodstream before the body can trigger its defense mechanism of vomiting. But this is not to say that throwing up will make everything better. According to Knox News, if someone is so intoxicated that they are throwing up, they need to be watched for warning signs of alcohol poisoning: cold sweats, pale color, lowered body temperature, flushed skin, incoherence, unconsciousness and seizures.

3. Do not drink to the point of blacking out.

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According to Mark Rose, a licensed psychologist and addiction researcher, when you rapidly consume a bunch of alcohol, a “roadblock” goes up between the immediate and short-term memories. In short, the brain receptors that create memories in the hippocampus shut down, which is why you can remember things in the 30- to 90-second span before the blackout, but nothing else afterwards.

In an interview with Coach Nine, Professor Dan Lubman, director of Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, reported that drinking also inhibits the brain neurotransmitter called glutamate, which plays a role in memory consolidation.

As Kim Pouncey of Knox News explains, “When you drink to the point of blacking out you have done permanent damage to the memory center of your brain. During the day your brain absorbs information in a temporary folder. When you sleep, your brain goes through the folder of your day and decides what it deems important enough to move to the long-term memory folder.

Every time you drink to the point of blacking out, the bridge your brain uses to transfer information gets a pothole or crack in it that your body has no way to repair. The more times it is damaged, the more potholes and cracks happen, and your brain is unable to process as much information over to the long-term memory. Test-taking becomes harder and grades begin slipping.”

4. Do NOT drink on an empty stomach. Eat fats and proteins before drinking.

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In a 1994 study conducted by a team of Swedish researchers, it was discovered that on the days when the subjects drank after consuming a modest breakfast, their rate of intoxication was significantly slower, and their blood alcohol levels were about 70 percent of what they had been on the days when they skipped breakfast.

This is because alcohol does not have to be digested. Thus, on an empty stomach, alcohol can travel directly to the small intestine, where it can immediately enter the bloodstream.

Furthermore, according to Top Health News, when you consume alcohol on an empty stomach, blood vessels will widen more rapidly than when the calories are available to slow the process of absorption. This is what accounts for feelings of warmth (as well as a decrease in both blood pressure and pulse rate). Drinking on an empty stomach also leads to temporary dehydration because of excessive urination and lack of feelings of thirst.

It is therefore a good idea to consume foods high in fat, protein and dense carbohydrates to slow the absorption of alcohol. Since fat takes the longest to digest, Top Health News recommends consuming foods that are high in fat before drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol often suppresses appetite due to gastric juice flow so it is vitally important to eat a meal before, not during or after, drinking.

There are clearly numerous serious health risks that will be wordlessly served alongside your alcoholic pint of choice. If you are of legal drinking age, however, the choice of whether or not to drink is entirely up to you. And if you do decide to drink at that upcoming Halloween frat party, make sure you do so safely.

(And please do avoid that circle of crazy chug, chug, chuggers!)

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Rina Lee - University of Toronto

Rina is an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and the associate editor at Fresh U. You can contact her at rina@freshu.io.

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