How to Stay Safe This St. Patrick’s Day Weekend
March 13, 2023 Written by Jessica Downey | Photo provided by Lindsey McLaughlin
Did you know that last year on St. Patrick’s Day, less than half of UD undergraduate students celebrated with alcohol? And of those who did drink, the majority chose to drink responsibly with four drinks or less?*
This year, Student Wellness and Health Promotion (SWHP) want students to continue to party safely, whether or not they choose to drink.
“We want students to celebrate in ways that are both fun and responsible,” said Assistant Director of Health Promotion & Peer Education Matt McMahon. “We want students to be aware that if they choose to drink, to know their limits. We want students to seek help if they or a friend feel unsafe or have an emergency. We also want students to remember that not everyone drinks and to respect everyone and their boundaries.”
Both nationally and at the University, St. Patrick’s Day weekend is a time of year when students engage in the most high-risk substance misuse behaviors.
“I believe this holiday specifically increases these behaviors because of peer pressure and fitting into the college norm,” said health promotion master’s student Sophia Angeletakis. “St. Patrick’s Day is a widely celebrated holiday in college culture [and has become] an excuse to binge drink and abuse substances to a level that can be dangerous for both the individual and the community.”
SWHP is hoping to reduce these incidents of substance misuse by providing education and resources around harm reduction strategies.
“Harm reduction is not fun reduction,” said Assistant Director of Substance Use Intervention Amy Richardson. “Harm reduction strategies are behaviors that can help students to reduce risks and ensure that a fun night doesn’t go sideways and end badly. Blacking out, vomiting, doing embarrassing things and getting into legal trouble are just some of the things that most students want to avoid when drinking.”
Some of those strategies include eating before drinking, using a designated driver or ride share app, setting a drink limit, avoiding drinking games and alternating water with alcoholic beverages. A current trend among college students is the blackout rage gallon or “BORG,” which is a gallon jug that is half water, half liquor and mixed with powdered electrolytes and/or caffeine. The alleged benefits of this practice—to stay hydrated and drink from a closed container—are outweighed by the risk of overconsumption.
“Lately there have been some national trends where students seem to think if they just stay hydrated or ensure that they’re aware of what they’re consuming can keep them safe,” said McMahon. “While these things are harm reduction strategies, the most important thing is to limit the amount of alcohol one consumes in one sitting. We want students to remember that binge drinking is dangerous.”
Sophomore international business major Katarina Rodriguez Thomas encouraged students to look out for each other and stick together as a group.
“Students can keep themselves and others safe on this holiday by watching to make sure they don’t have anything put into their drinks,” she said. “Friends can keep an eye on one another to make sure everyone is still having a good time and can call it if people are too intoxicated or should go back home. I also think that students should look out for one another and if someone that they didn’t come with tries to take them home, they make sure it’s consensual.”
Senior medical diagnostics major Tori Glover expanded on this sentiment with her top safety tips.
“Look out for one another, stay in a group, avoid mixing drinks, don’t drink and drive and party safely with people you know,” Glover said.
For students who do overdo it this weekend, SWHP wants students to remember the signs to look out for using the acronym VITALS: vomiting, irregular pulse, trouble breathing, abnormal skin, loss of consciousness and seizures. If you spot someone experiencing even one of these symptoms, get help immediately.
Don’t leave a Blue Hen behind! If you yourself are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will qualify for amnesty if you find an RA or call 911. After you call for help, you must remain with and monitor the student’s condition until assistance arrives and cooperate fully during the medical and investigative process.
In replacement of the large-scale on-campus event Shamrock Fest, SWHP is partnering with University Student Centers for some alternative programming offered during St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This includes Foodie Friday in Trabant Food Court, St. Patrick’s Day Pop-Up events in Pencader and Caesar Rodney dining halls and Perkins Live: Bingo on Friday, March 17; Trabant Now: Night Market on Saturday, March 18; and St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt across campus on Sunday, March 19.
Additionally, SWHP created partnerships with Deer Park and Klondike Kate’s to display the VITALS information for students to remember what to look out for when drinking in the bars. Additionally, SWHP is distributing “party packs”—pre-made kits with 20 soft pretzels, safer sex kits (condoms, lube and oral dams), literature about UD’s amnesty policy and either a case of water or Gatorade. RSOs, athletic groups and fraternity and sorority groups can receive party packs by completing a Google form to submit their safety plan or by taking a short harm reduction quiz on Qualtrics. Party packs are in a limited supply, so the first 35 groups that submit their safety plan will be granted one party pack per organization.
“One of the key components of health promotion is to embed health into all aspects of campus and for us, this means meeting students where they are—both figuratively and literally,” said McMahon. “We’re not asking for and expecting all of our students to no longer use alcohol. We just want to help our students who use alcohol to do so in a safer way. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder to think about your actions and incorporate a small change that could help keep yourself and others safer.”
If students need assistance with creating a safety plan for St. Patrick’s Day, they can schedule a meeting with a drug and alcohol counselor by booking online at udel.edu/studentwellness or by calling 302-831-3457. For any students interested in entering into recovery or who are in active recovery and would like additional support, they can attend a meeting of the Collegiate Recovery Community, which meets every Tuesday on the third floor of Warner Hall from 1 to 3 p.m.
*These statistics were collected by UD’s Department of Communication on University social norms around drinking.
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