The beginning of the fall 2021 NC State academic year brings over 30,000 students into a roughly five square mile area in Raleigh. In a normal year, everyone would be excited to branch out, meet as many new people as they can and have the wild college experience depicted in movies and TV shows.
This is, unfortunately, not that year thanks to the delta variant of COVID-19, but you may be able to hang with your new “nuclear family.” Given that we head into this year with vaccines available to fight the spread of COVID and reduce its deadliness, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you’ll be at a party, kickback or other function. So, here’s a guide to smart drinking.
Editor’s note: This guide is solely for those 21 years and older. For those under 21, go do your REPORTER training.
Pregame, but not how you think
Getting properly drunk is an all-day process. If you’re going to harm your body, make sure you prepare it beforehand. If you live on campus, head to Case Dining Hall and have a full meal three to four hours before the function. Otherwise, eat half a pizza or head to Bojangles — whatever you have to do, don’t enter the function with an empty stomach. You’ll pay for it later.
An expert opinion: NC State’s safer drinking strategies, say to “Eat a substantial meal before and during drinking to slow down the absorption rate of alcohol.”
It’s not a competition
Keep your eyes on the prize. The reason you’re getting drunk isn’t to get drunk, it’s to be social. Generally, there’s no reason for you to be the most inebriated person in the room. No matter how much your friends like you, they don’t want to constantly have to baby blacked-out you, or deal with you throwing up or stop you from leaving the apartment and laying in the street or something. Find your buzz, make a light mixed beverage and ride that for the rest of the evening.
An expert opinion: NC State’s safer drinking strategies say, “One standard drink of alcohol per hour helps reduce the risk of reaching a dangerous BAC. Remember, it’s a hike, not a race.”
Shots are your best friend
Whenever the vibe dips, but no more than once an hour, call for a shot. Go around pouring for people, and weigh the volume of their shot with their size and what you know they can handle. Pour less in the glass than is necessary, if they really want more they’ll tell you. Like I said, drink to be social, not to be drunk.
Done right, shots are a great way to control how much alcohol you consume in a night because there’s no hiding how much you’re putting into your body. Contrast that with party juice or mixed beverages, which hide its tell-tale taste and get you drunker than you’d expect. Always know the amount of liquor, beer or wine you've had and the maximum you can handle.
An expert opinion: A blood alcohol concentration of .08% exceeds the legal limit to drive. It also reaches the threshold for binge drinking, which “usually corresponds to 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within about 2 hours,” according to the CDC. Note that sex, weight and speed of consumption all affect the amount a person can handle.
Don’t be stupid
Don’t drive drunk. Don’t drink underaged, especially not on campus. Don’t commit crimes while drunk. Don’t go anywhere if there isn’t a sober person who can chaperone, really. And don’t feel forced to drink once you’ve reached what you feel is your limit.
Plan your night out sober, know who you can crash with and who can drive you home. Don’t assume you can stay with the host, especially if you don’t know them well. If you’re hosting, be prepared to host anyone that needs to spend the night.
An expert opinion: NC State safer drinking strategies guide advises to create an “accountability system and a safety network” by sharing your plans with your friends. It also advises practicing turning down a drink.
If you’re hung over, you did it wrong
You may be having a great deal of fun, but it can’t go on forever. At some point the party ends, and as soon as that happens it’s time to stop the bleeding. You’ve dumped poison in your body for between three and six hours, now sip down a bottle of water before you allow yourself to sleep. Have some Pedialyte and take Pepto if necessary. Better yet, stay up until Chick-fil-A opens, grab some breakfast Minis and fall asleep on a full stomach. Just make sure to give your body the building blocks it needs to repair your vocal chords (you talked a lot), calves (jumping with the music), kidneys (self-explanatory) and more.
An expert opinion: For hangovers, Harvard Health advises consuming extra fluids as alcohol can cause dehydration. It also advises eating carbohydrates since blood sugar levels may be low. Other advice: consuming B vitamins, taking non-Tylenol pain relievers and avoiding dark-colored liquors.
The day after the function, assess how things went and adjust for next time, whether that means drinking less of a certain type of alcohol or stopping at an earlier time. Make sure that your partying habit remains an every-now-and-then experience, and if you or a friend are struggling with alcohol usage, the Student Health Center has resources to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-515-4405 for more information.