ifIknew

ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: alcohol

Home for the Holidays – Sound Off

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, and I am thankful for all the support they have provided over the years. Regardless, they constantly drive me up the wall. And between the crying children and my aunt’s smooches and all the awkward small talk, Thanksgiving dinner can make me feel as though I’m losing my head. So how do I cope with the holiday season? One strategy I’ve used is to avoid alcohol. I find that when myself or others around me are in a drunken haze, it is much more difficult to have meaningful and fulfilling conversations. Additionally, I am much more prone to spilling something embarrassing about my boyfriend or guilty pleasure CD collection that I wouldn’t normally want my second cousin to overhear. Being sober also enables me to guide the conversation. By asking my family members questions about their lives, I am able to avoid the awkwardness that comes from being put on the spot. Last, I always make sure to establish an escape plan before dinner begins. One year, I made a deal that I would text my best friend S.O.S. if I needed her to call me so that I had an excuse to step outside. Another year, I planned to step into the living room to watch some football if I was finding dinner overwhelming.

Since I’ve begun employing these strategies, I’ve been able to calm down and appreciate my family members. What do you do to remain cool and collected during the holidays? Sound off below!

R.L.

Freedom...with a warning label.

It’s the time of year when there is an uptick in the number of alcohol overdoses occurring on campuses across the country. Newfound freedom for freshmen often seems to take the form of the freedom to drink with abandon. But the body has its natural limits. Binge drinking can lead to an overdose or what is otherwise called alcohol poisoning.  This happens when someone drinks more rapidly than his or her body can metabolize. Alcohol’s intoxicating property, ETOH, goes straight to the brain, hence the buzz. The alcohol builds up in the bloodstream and depresses the part of the brain that controls involuntary actions like breathing and physical coordination.  It can cause the drinker to lose consciousness.  At this point  the drinker is at high risk to choke on his or her own vomit, stop breathing, have irregular, slow, or fast heartbeats, brain damage, hypothermia or hypoglycemia (which can lead to a seizure), or death.  Someone who survives an overdose can still suffer irreversible brain damage.

The difficulty in defending oneself against unwanted sexual advances when intoxicated accounts for a high percentage of  rapes, that are reported or go unreported on campuses each year.

College is so much more than drinking.   Find the student activities director on campus and ask for a list of non-drinking fun alternatives around town. Join clubs that may interest you or will advance your social life or future career. Join an intramural sports team.   Constructive activities abound – and it’s much more fun to wake up with a great memory than to have no memory, regrets, or find yourself in the hospital.

What Happened Last Night?

You’re confused, nauseous, dizzy, and embarrassed so you quickly get dressed and slip out of the house. Back at your own place, you sleep a while longer and then ask your friends why they ditched you. To your surprise, they never saw you. The twenty unopened texts confirm their claims. Pretty sure you had sex, you lie in bed for the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do. Finally, on Sunday, your friend’s sister convinces you to go the hospital and tell them that you’ve been raped. Sadly, it’s too late. The Rohypnol used to drug you is already out of your system and your attacker didn’t leave evidence because he (thankfully) used a condom. Going out tonight? Protect yourself.

  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • If you only had one drink and you feel drunk, call 911 or get help immediately.
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you do, dump it!
  • Open your own bottles.
  • Don’t take a drink from someone else.
  • Avoid community drinks.
  • Stay away from punch bowls.
  • If it tastes or smells funny or different, then it probably is!

Have your designated driver keep an eye out for those who are drinking and what everyone is drinking as well.

Resources: National Directory of Rape Crises Centers Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE

Rant - You know what I hate?

I hate lying. I hate deceit. I hate playing on your personality and interests for personal gain. And I especially hate when all of the above are mixed together, along with bright colors, catchy mastheads, and pop culture to produce a concoction that’s sticky sweet in all the wrong aspects. You know what I’m talking about?

I’m talking about those irritating advertisements that take up the first and last thirty pages of whatever magazine you’re reading. Those ads that promise good fortune, lush hair, silky skin lots of friends and lots of easy sex? They are there aimed at increasing hormone-induced fuzzy thinking so we’ll buy their products.

You know why it sucks?

Because we are already genetically prone to temptation, which is hard enough to avoid as it is. You hear all these stories about people who have altered the way their brain and lungs function by drinking and smoking too much, so you resolve that this sort of thing won’t happen to you. You don’t want to grow up to forever regret accepting that Solo cup of Skyy mixed with Redbull, and you promise that this won’t be your future.

You know why this could be your future?

It could be your future because whether or not you want to see this stuff every day, you do. And even though you have that "this-won’t-happen-to-me-because-I’m-smarter-then-that" attitude, you probably check out the ads because they’re colorful, they’ve got hot guys or girls in them, and/or you know the product.  Some ads show people, especially kids doing stuff that requires some serious coordination and alertness, like swimming, for example.  Does anyone you know actually go swimming after ingesting 16 ounces of Four Loko? The problem is they don’t live to tell you about it. So just why are the guys in the picture smiling? We need to remember they are acting and getting paid to appear like it’s all fun and no consequences. - R.S

Want to see for yourself? Check out the website: http://www.camy.org/

The Gateway Effect

A recent study conducted by Tristan Kirby MPH and Adam E Barry Ph.D. confirms that alcohol, not pot, is the primary indicator of whether an individual will experiment with other drugs. Researchers looked at the annual Monitoring the Future survey, in which 50,000 high school sophomores and seniors are questioned about their substance use and lifestyle choices. They compared high school seniors who had and had not consumed alcohol at least once in their lives and found that those who drank were 13 more times likely to smoke cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use  marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine.

So why isn’t alcohol considered a “gateway” as marijuana is? For one thing, drinking is extremely common. Alcohol is legal and relatively easy to obtain. The Centers for Disease Control recently found that 71 percent of American students have consumed alcohol in their lifetime, and that nearly 39 percent drank within the last 30 days.

Hangovers...UGH!!!

A hangover.  Splitting headache, vile taste of alcohol in your mouth and a nausea that won’t subside. How many times have you woken up with a hangover and then said,“UGH! I’m never drinking again!” Now, how many of those times did you actually quit drinking for more than a day? A week? A month? If your answer was a day or a week, then you are one of the many who experience a horrid hangover, but still continue to turn back to the alcohol that was the enemy only a few hours or days before. What is it that makes us come back for more, after feeling so awful? According to psychological researcher Diane Logan, we turn back to alcohol, the source of the problem, because we just didn’t learn our lesson. We rationalize the splitting headache, claiming it isn’t really that bad and getting rid of it by taking Advil. We downsize the disgusting nausea, and lie in bed for a while understanding that it will subside eventually and looking back to the more positive parts of drinking. We engage in what is sometimes called “euphoric recall,” in which we chose to remember the “awesome” night we had instead of the current hangover. Who wouldn’t prefer recalling positive associations instead of negative ones? Drinking is all fun again.

For a lot of us, drinking has become the social sport we engage in to have a good time. We have accepted drinking as part of our life and have let this “sport” become something that we almost must do in order to fit in. Hangovers can teach us something about our bodies – like knowing when we have pushed ourselves too far - if we are smart enough to listen.

Fake ID, Real Consequences

It’s nearly every high school student and college kid’s dream - the day you are finally old enough to go to a bar and buy alcohol. For most of us this comes at the age of 18, or 21, depending on the legal age in your location. However, for others this opportunity comes prematurely, in the form of fake ID’s. Fake ID’s have become fairly easy to obtain. You can buy one for roughly $100 from a local dealer on campus, make one yourself, or take one from a similar looking older sibling.  Now fake ID’s are also very easily purchased online from offshore fake ID websites. Before you say, “Hey, it’s not such a big deal. What’s the worst that could happen?,” stop and think again.

I used to think the worst that would happen is being thrown out of the bar or having your ID confiscated.  But fines, suspension of your driver’s license and jail time are other possibilities. Some states have now even upgraded the possession of false identification to a felony. And, since 9-11, a fake ID can also be a federal offense under The Patriot Act. College admissions offices and prospective employers aren’t too keen about accepting people who’ve been charged with a felony charges.  It’s something to consider.

What Just Happened?

You’ve just arrived at the party of the year and you’re psyched.  Looking around, you realize that your friends haven’t gotten there yet.  This is the night you’re finally going to talk to  your crush  and you need their encouragement.  Everyone else looks like they’re having a great time so you head to the kitchen.  Maybe there’s some liquid courage around.  Red cups are stacked on the counter and what looks like a new trashcan filled with red punch sits in front of the sink.  You dip your cup in and take a sip.  It’s definitely spiked so you fill your cup and try to blend in while you wait for your friends to join you.  Twenty minutes later you’ve had three or four cups and your friends aren’t there yet.  As the room sways, you feel dinner and the punch start to come back up.  Grabbing the closest thing…the trashcan, you puke red everywhere.   To make matters worse, you see the flash of someone’s camera phone go off out of the corner of your eye.

What just happened?  You thought this was going to be the party of the year and now everyone is mad at you!  The brain could have had something to do with things going wrong.  When we get excited about an upcoming event like a party, a date, a text, a game, or even eating a pizza, we get a surge of dopamine.  This feel-good neurotransmitter is responsible for keeping us wanting more but not being satisfied!    We get a good feeling as we anticipate the event, but unfortunately our expectations often fall short of reality.  It’s like ordering a cherry pie for dessert at the diner and then finding out that it’s nothing like the one Grandma makes.

Our desire to be accepted, wanted, loved, cool, free, and have fun can sometimes kidnap the reasoning part of our brain.  Adding that extra boost from dopamine to the mix can create the perfect storm.  Before we do something we may regret, it’s a good idea to think things through to the end because in the end we have to live with our choices.

The Pocket Guide to Spring Break

That’s right, boys and girls; it’s that time of year again. It’s the week you waited for all semester. You have pulled many all nighters and crammed for exams. You have submitted your 7 page papers three minutes before the midnight deadline and passed (hopefully) your midterms. Now it’s time for some relaxation, that’s right, everybody; SPRING BREAK IS HERE! Spring break to most of us is a time for relaxation, time to go home see your family, time for a little traveling, and of course time for a little partying. With most parties, there are the majority who just want to relax, drink and have a good time. However, every party has its pooper, and there are those that take it to another level and end up sick, hospitalized, drugged and/or injured. From my experience the last few years - here’s your pocket list of DO’s And Don’ts for spring break.

  • As always, if you drink (obviously if you are over 21), DO NOT DRIVE!  Funerals we’ve been to are real downers.
  • Do not take drinks from someone else! If you’re at spring break and drinking, you probably are not new to this and you know the realities of someone slipping something  into your drink.
  • If you are having any sexual contact, USE A CONDOM! Remember STD’s can be transferred through oral sex as well.
  • Many of the spring break spots are located on beaches.  Do not drink and swim.  IF you are drinking on the beach, make sure you are also drinking water, since both alcohol and the sun dehydrate you.
  • Be alert. While you may be responsible, that does not mean that others are acting responsibly. Look out for drunk drivers and potentially belligerent and violent drunks.
  • Have a buddy with you at all times.
  • Stay off balconies. Falling from balconies is known to be one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths at spring breaks.

Have fun. Be “Spring Break” Happy.

Four Loko Blamed for Another Death

On Saturday, February 18, Michael Truluck, 13, was hanging out with his friends like most Saturdays.  This time, though, they had gotten an adult to buy them Four Loko, a high alcohol concoction that has been banned in four states and Baltimore City.  The sweet drink has as much alcohol as four beers and many believe the fruity, carbonated flavors are especially appealing to younger drinkers.   When drinking this mixture, people don’t always realize how much alcohol they’ve consumed and become very drunk, very fast. Michael’s friends said that he threw up twice before texting his family that he needed a ride home. His mother’s fiancé arrived to get him, but once in the truck, he felt sick again.  Without warning, and with impaired judgment and balance, Michael opened the front door to throw up, fell out into the street and was hit by another car. He died. Since the alcohol content is so high in each drink, his body likely did not have time to get the message to slow down which is the usual way our brains prevent us from continuing to ingest more booze.  Vomiting was his body’s way of trying to get rid of the overdose of alcohol.

Michael’s brain got tricked into drinking more and it had deadly consequences, maybe not the usual ones you think of like alcohol poisoning, but the result was the same.  It’s a reminder that you don’t have to reach the point of passing out for drinking to be fatal.

Q&A: I find that having a drink or smoking up before getting in bed makes it easier to fall asleep. Is there a downside to that as long as I don’t make a habit of it?

Some drugs like marijuana and alcohol slow you down and “mellow” you out. While it sometimes helps with the “falling asleep” part of sleeping, most of us discover that it is not a particularly re-energizing, restorative sleep, often leaving us nearly as beat as when we went to sleep.  Part of the “hung-over” feeling is the result of falling asleep but not getting the full restful sleep you need. This anecdotal evidence was confirmed by a 2011 Stanford University sleep study.  Healthy 21 year old subjects who were given alcohol before bedtime for a few weeks showed “increased slow-wave sleep during the first half of sleep, but then their sleep became disruptive.”  The study concluded that “alcohol interferes with the restorative functions of sleep.”

Long time marijuana users report much the same effect.  While they say that smoking initially helps them fall asleep, staying asleep is another matter; they often find themselves waking up 3-5 hours later as the THC  moves out of their system. Awake, but not feeling so great.

For more information about getting the Z’s you need, visit the National Sleep Foundation website.

Drunk walking?

Consider this situation - it’s time to go home from a party, but you’ve had a few too many drinks to drive. Just to be safe, you decide to hand over your keys, buckle up your  boots, and walk home. Sounds like a safe plan, right? We’ve all heard about drunk driving. But what about drunk walking?

Steve Levitt, author of the bestselling book Freakonomics, did some number crunching. Around 4,000 pedestrians were killed last year in the U.S. Of that number, an estimated 35% had been drinking.

Maybe it makes sense to bring your toothbrush and prepare to crash for the night on your friend’s couch.

For an article and an NPR podcast click here and forward to 1:25

Happy New Year! Party hearty, but safely enough to see what 2012 brings for you!

Q & A: “Why do people even do drugs or drink at all?”

That’s a great question!  A few reasons: wanting to blow off steam, a way to have fun, wanting to fit in, low self-esteem, boredom, and trying to run from feelings. People want to be accepted – but by whom?  People from high school whom you may never see again after graduation?  (Click here to see what was going on in high school for one our speakers, Francine, when she started using drugs to feel better about her social situation at school. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?  On one level, people are people.  We all go to the bathroom.  We all put on our pants one leg at a time.  We tend to get in trouble when we think we are better or less than others.

How can we tackle fitting in, boredom, self-esteem and feelings?  There are three things we need to help us, according to bloggers from the Search Institute:  We all need a mentor, a passion, and a voice. Mentors, or allies, are people who are good listeners.  They can see situations as they are a little more clearly than we can.  They will also like us enough to tell us the truth if we get off center.

If you don’t want to be bored, find something that you love to do (your passion).  It could be computers, fantasy games, art, music, sports, dancing, or writing, to name a few.  When you do what you love, you’ll find people that you like and who share similar interests – and you’ll fit in!

Finally, take your passion and share it with the world.  We all need to have our voice heard.  Let’s say your passion is the guitar.  You can join a band, play at a senior center, or post on YouTube.

Another good tip is to have a goal in mind.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  How will your choice to do alcohol or drugs affect that goal?

To help you with your decision not to get chemically high, but to be in social situations where others are, here are some tips.  Rehearse what you will say before you go to a party where there might be drinking (or drugs).   Just saying “No, thanks. I’m good,” should be enough.   You could also try blaming your parents - “They’d kill me if they found out” or an upcoming ‘drug test’.  Remember, it is a free country to choose to leave or to stay and stay straight and not have to do what everyone else might be doing around you.  For more tips on staying ‘above the influence’, click here.

More doesn't mean better

Once we get tipsy or high, we are much more likely to misjudge what we are doing, including how much more alcohol is safe for us to drink or what will happen if we take drugs when we’ve been drinking. Recent reports from the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs bear this out, noting a 25% increase in alcohol overdoses and a whopping 76% increase in overdoses caused by a combination of alcohol and other drugs.  When we are relaxed and feeling good with alcohol, our self monitoring is dis-inhibited, and getting high with a drug at that moment seems appealing and less of a concern. At other times, some suppose that drinking is a good way to increase the effect of the drug they are taking to get high. The brain is such an amazing and delicately balanced, fine tuned and resilient machine. When we throw it off balance with intoxicating substances, we experience rather dramatic effects; some pleasurable, some not so. When the effects are pleasurable, at that moment we are often tempted in our slightly off balanced judgment - into thinking that “more would be better.”  More often than not, the reality is that it is not better. Instead, many unintended, not so pleasurable consequences like overdosing, non-consensual sex or drugged driving can be the result.

Keep your mask up, but don’t let your guard down

Halloween – what a great time of year.  It’s a great way to transition into the dreary winter season.  It’s also a fun way to try on different personas and even hide behind a mask.  Oh, and then there are the parties.  It’s easier to let our guard down when we’re in disguise.  Just keep in mind, though, that lowered inhibitions can lead to increased drinking.   Binge drinking is considered consuming four or more beers in one sitting with the intention of getting drunk.  It may be just a one time thing – or an occasional event.  Either way, we still have the same consequences.  We’re pretty sure local law enforcement doesn’t give partiers a pass for looking cute in a cat costume,  at least not around here.   Underage drinking on campus can be grounds for being kicked out of the dorms.  For those in high school, getting caught drinking can directly affect college admission chances and your standing in high school, too.

Lively parties tend to get out of control pretty quickly.  It’s always best to pre-plan. Ask yourself: •    Can I bring my own juice or beverage if I alcohol isn’t my thing? •    What’s my limit if I do choose to drink? •    What if I don’t follow my own limit that I set for myself? •    How will I turn down a drink when offered? •    Which friends have my back? •    Who is the designated driver? •    What’s my exit strategy if things get out of control? •    What is my back up plan in case our designated driver drinks?

Sometimes it’s a matter of just realizing that “not everyone is looking at me and watching to see if I drink alcohol and how much I drink. As if they really care - they’re caught up in their own drama.”

So, as long as custody of the drink is never lost, why not just put a soda in a red cup.  Who has to know?  And remember, “no” is a complete sentence.

Honoring Marc Goldberg's Memory

Today, on the fifth anniversary of his death, we honor the memory of Marc Goldberg.  Marc was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend who had been drinking.  In an instant, one promising life was lost and the lives of all who loved him were changed forever.  In “Everybody Thinks It Can’t Happen to Them,” Marc’s friends, including the friend who was driving the car, talk about that night and its impact.  We encourage you to visit www.marcspromise.org , the foundation Marc’s parents established in his memory, to learn more about what each of us can do to prevent something like this among our own family and friends.

I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life!

This past spring I was standing in line at the campus bookstore waiting to buy my cap and gown with my best friend and roommate for 3 years. Right as I was being rung up, Green Day’s Time of Your Life came on the overhead radio speakers and I started to cry. Until then, I had tried to stay strong, mainly by way of denial, but the looming fact of graduating and leaving this amazing world became all too real, and it finally hit me that College was about to be over. Everyone hopes their college experience will be full of the kinds of friendships, memories, and life experiences that mine was. College is what you make of it. You are going to be faced with a lot of decisions and new situations while you’re off on your own and you need to be prepared for that. Hindsight is truly 20/20 so here is a compilation of some lessons I learned along the way.

Stick it out. It truly takes a full year for most people to adjust comfortably into the college lifestyle. If you are not having the time of your life and are begging to come home or transfer closer to home or your high school best friend, don’t give up that easily. Don’t rush out of the situation or go running home because your first 3 months didn’t exceed your expectations. Stick it out. It’s amazing how much difference one semester can make in your overall perspective and experience at college. Stick it out for the second semester. Remember that classes change each semester, so you might find a new group of friends in the spring, who will make you feel comfortable and give you a better home-base feeling. Also, sorority and fraternity rush, which takes place at most schools in the spring, can be a great way for you to make those friendships and feel a part of a group and more comfortable in the larger campus community. And those bonds can last a lifetime. However, if, after your first year, you are still not happy, you can always consider transferring and beginning elsewhere in the fall.

Call your parents. Keep the communication lines open with your parents. They are going to be worried about you, but also curious to hear about all the new friends you are making, fun things you are doing, and interesting information you are learning. Share your stories with them. Whether it’s a short call or text in between classes or as you are getting ready to go out, they’ll be so happy to hear from you and see that you are doing well. They’ll also be less likely to hound you with missed calls and voicemails if you reach out to them, rather than leaving them in the dark. Plus, your parents, as much as you might not like to admit, can really offer some great advice and comfort in times of high stress or confusion.

Facebook. Everyone has one. Sure, you’re going to want to show off all the fun you’re having to your ex, your home friends, and your random Facebook friends or stalkers, but use some discretion with the statuses you post, and the pictures you leave tagged. Even employers these days check applicants’ Facebook pages and if you are looking a mess in all of your pictures, you won’t be getting that great summer internship you were hoping for!

Start Exercising Your Independence Now. Learn how to do laundry. Have your parents show you how to separate and do different loads of laundry at home before you are off on your own. Call and set up your own doctor’s appointments; learn how to deposit and write checks and how to check your account online. If you start learning to manage your own life and absorb some of the responsibilities that you have previously relied on your parents for, you will better adjust to the independence and self-reliance that comes with the beginning of college life.

Be safe, have fun, make friends, have fun, study, have fun. These words of advice are a combination of what my parents told me as they got into the elevator after helping me move into my freshman dorm four years ago. My Mom reminded me that I was here ultimately to learn, study, and graduate with a degree. My Dad continued to interject, “Yes, but have fun.” College is a time like no other. You will meet your best friends for life, you’ll just barely pass a class at least once, and you’ll discover what truly excites and interests you, both in coursework and lecture halls, and out of them. And, yes, while it is important to study hard and be safe throughout the next four years, it’s also important for you to enjoy the ride and make everlasting memories. But while you are out having fun and making these memories, there are some important points to keep in mind so that you wake up every morning safe and without stomach wrenching regrets.

  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. I’m sure you’ve heard this one over and over again, ever since you started going out in high school. However, this is college and you are going to be surrounded by lots more people, some of whom you won’t even know. You can’t trust everyone. There are people out there looking for an easy mark and things like roofies really do exist.
  • Party smart. Just because others are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, doesn’t mean it’s right and that you should, too. Stick to your beliefs and personal rules. Don’t compromise who you are to fit in with new friends. There are temptations everywhere and it can be really easy to get carried away and lose sight of your limit. But in the long run, if you let yourself get wasted, you’ll just end up feeling embarrassed…or worse.
  • “Hooking up.” College is a time to meet new people and form new relationships. But you need to be careful. If you have sex, always use protection, and remember that actions come with consequences. Alcohol can complicate hook ups and other situations, so be cautious with whom and how many people you get involved with, especially while intoxicated. Hangovers eventually go away, but a moral hangover can last much longer and an STD lasts a lifetime.

Smile. The thing that I loved so much about my freshman year was all the people I was constantly meeting! Some of them became my best friends, and some were acquaintances I’d see at parties, in the dining hall, or in classes. Especially during freshman year, everyone is new to the environment and looking to make those unrivaled bonds of friendship that you’ve heard older siblings, parents, and friends talk about. The diversity in a college community helps expose you to all kinds of people from different areas and backgrounds. You can learn so much about yourself just by keeping an open mind and a positive attitude, and getting to know people you had never imagined being close with. This for me is when peer influences took on a positive connotation. I learned and gained so much from my friendships with others, and this helped shape me into the person I am today.

Now it’s your turn. I hope that when you are sitting in your cap and gown, waiting to be called up to receive your diploma, you can look back at your own college experience with pride, smile, and say that you, too, had the time of your life.

FAQ: How do I know if I have a drinking problem?

Maybe friends or family members have told you they’re concerned. Or maybe you've recognized that your drinking might be a problem. If you are concerned, read the following statements and keep track of how many times they sometimes apply to you. Drinking Patterns

  • You sometimes intend to "just have a drink" but end up drinking more then you planned.
  • It is difficult for you to stop drinking after you've had one or two drinks.
  • When you drink, you frequently wind up drunk.
  • Even after your friends say they've had enough alcohol, you want to continue drinking.
  • You turn to certain “drinking buddies” or to a specific environment when you drink.
  • You crave a drink at a specific time every day, like after class or after work.
  • When you’re out with friends, you sneak a few drinks without their knowledge.
  • A significant part of your day is spent obtaining, consuming, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • You sometimes have a drink to help you fall asleep.
  • You sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time.

After Drinking

  • The day after drinking, you have trouble remembering what you did the night before.
  • You sometimes feel guilty about your drinking.
  • Most of the time, you have a hangover or headache after you've been drinking.
  • When you’re sober, you often regret things you said or did while you were drinking.
  • After drinking, you have experienced severe anxiety, shaking, or visual or auditory hallucinations.

Consequences

  • Drinking has caused you to be late for class or work.
  • Your performance at school or work has suffered because of your drinking.
  • You have gotten into an argument or a fistfight while you were drinking.
  • You found yourself arguing with someone you like for no really good reason.
  • Your drinking has led to financial problems.
  • You have neglected your classes, job, family or other obligations for two or more days in a row because you were drinking.
  • You have been arrested for intoxicated behavior or driving under the influence of alcohol.

Drinking and Emotions

  • When you’re in a social situation and no alcohol is provided, you feel "out of place."
  • You use alcohol as an escape when you’re angry, disappointed, or otherwise upset.
  • Your personality is altered when you consume alcohol.

Family and Friends

  • Your family or friends have expressed concern about your drinking.
  • You get irritated when your family or friends want to discuss your drinking.
  • You have lost a friend or created a rift with a family member based on their feelings about your drinking.

You've tried to change

  • You've promised yourself to slow down or stop drinking, but you can only keep the promise for a few days or weeks at a time.
  • You have tried switching from one kind of alcohol to another in an effort to cut down or remain in control of your drinking, or to try to avoid getting drunk.

If 4 or more of these statements apply to you, you may have a problem with alcohol or have the potential to develop one. Examine your habits honestly. Patterns of heavy drinking can lead to a more serious problem down the road. You can reduce your drinking with some of the ideas listed below.

If 5 or more of these statements apply to you, there’s a strong chance that you frequently misuse and abuse alcohol. Now is the time for you to change your drinking patterns and behaviors. Because of the brain development occurring in teenagers and young adults, you could be at high risk for having these habits develop into set patterns.

Visit our “Get Help” tab for resources.

FAQ: What do I do if a friend is sick from drinking?

At a recent after-prom party in Dallas, an 18-year-old died from apparent alcohol poisoning. This type of tragedy is entirely too common. It’s important to think ahead about what you might do if a friend (or even a stranger) gets so drunk that you need to make the decision to call for help. Know the warning signs that someone is at risk and needs serious medical attention beyond having someone “hold their hair back.” These are the general guidelines offered by health professionals. Firstly, make sure the person doesn’t drink any more alcohol, and try to prevent him or her from wandering off alone. Impaired judgment can lead someone to get hurt, engage in risky sexual or violent behavior, or just plain embarrass him or herself-- with permanent documentation thanks to camera phones and Facebook. Also, make sure he or she does not get behind the wheel of a car!

A person doesn’t necessarily need to be throwing up or passed out to need medical attention. Worrisome signs to look out for include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Stumbling while walking or trouble maintaining balance without help
  • Trouble making eye contact
  • Feeling excessively cold or warm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Erratic, withdrawn, or aggressive behavior
  • Queasiness, vomiting, or dry heaving
  • Unconsciousness

If a drunk person throws up, it often means that the stomach is too irritated for food and water. If the person is willing to drink water, it can help him or her stay hydrated. However, remember that this doesn’t help make a person sober more quickly (neither will coffee, eating food, or taking a cold shower). Only time will allow alcohol to work its way out of the body. Once a person is already intoxicated, food may actually make him or her feel sicker or cause choking.

If your friend wants to lie down, make sure he or she is lying on his side or stomach. If someone vomits while on his or her back, it can cause choking and death. It’s important for a responsible (preferably sober) person to stay awake and watch the individual for several hours, making sure he doesn’t roll on his back and occasionally checking that the person is conscious. Someone who is unconscious will not respond to gentle shaking or being spoken to, and may have shallow, slow breathing.

If there are signs that someone is having trouble breathing, is severely ill, has mixed alcohol with other drugs (including prescriptions), or is unconscious, call for an ambulance as quickly as possible. Alcohol poisoning is a real possibility and time is of the essence. If you are unsure, always err on the side of caution. Many university campuses have their own emergency medical services that you can call, but otherwise, call 9-1-1.

Remember, it is dangerous to leave drunk friends to fend for themselves or ignore warning signs. Even if you’re afraid of getting into trouble, your safety (and that of your friends) should be the first priority.

One key strategy for safety is to make sure there’s at least one person in your group who is completely sober who can make decisions in case someone gets dangerously drunk. Drinking impairs judgment, and so if you have been drinking too, alcohol might cloud your ability to make the right call.

If you have a friend who is repeatedly drinking to the point of being unable to care for him or herself, perhaps it’s time for a new approach. Do you like spending weekends cleaning up vomit, trying to stop bad behavior, and worrying for others’ safety? You may want to bring it up with your friend, privately at a time when he or she is sober. Tell your friend how you feel about this behavior. Convey concern, but try not to preach. Offer your support, and encourage the friend to get help.

For more tips on talking with a friend about his or her drinking, click here.

For general information about alcohol, click here.

Selling Booze to Fight HIV?

When we read that Belvedere Vodka & Product (Red) with the help of Usher were launching a special edition vodka bottle to "help eliminate HIV/AIDS," we hoped it was an April Fools' joke. Unfortunately, this is for real. The specially designed vodka label reads: "(PRODUCT)RED HELPS SAVE LIVES."

Even if 50% of proceeds go to the Global Fund, this product choice seems a wildly insensitive and hypocritical move.  Rather than saving lives, alcohol is the cause of 4% of deaths worldwide- even more than AIDS! Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries.

Beyond this, alcohol use plays a major role in HIV transmission. Alcohol can cloud decision-making abilities and lead to high-risk sexual behaviors or drug use that can spread HIV. Alcohol is also quite harmful to people who are HIV positive; it can lead to failure of medications and other complications.

In a statement, the President of Belvedere said, "As one of the world's leading spirit brands, we are in a unique position to harness the power of our customers to benefit the millions of people who are at risk, or are living, with HIV. We want to raise consumer awareness and incite more global action to eliminate AIDS in Africa. Our message is simple - (PRODUCT)RED helps saves lives." The (PRODUCT) RED campaign also added the Penfold brand of wines to its lineup recently. This trend is worrisome.

The real message should be about the negative effects of alcohol advertising and that drinking can put you at risk for HIV. As this recent reaction from the Marin Institute puts it:

"If Usher and PRODUCT(RED) really wanted to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa, they would counteract the oversaturation of alcohol advertising, rather than promoting it. Instead, it seems that Belvedere and its parent company...are targeting the populations at highest risk of HIV, to increase sales and consumption of a product that increases both the risk of contracting HIV and the progression of HIV/AIDS disease."