Alcohol, Drugs, and Education AbroadThings to Think About When Choosing to Drink or Use Other Drugs in a Foreign Country
- Many countries have laws regarding alcohol and other drug use that are more severe than laws in the United States. In some countries, those caught with illegal drugs can be subject to death.
- Your consumption of alcohol or another drug, and/or your behavior while under the influence, might lead to a violation of local laws.
- Certain types of alcoholic beverages may be stronger than what you are used to in the United States.
- You are representing the University of Minnesota, and your actions will reflect either positively or negatively.
Consequences of Drinking Too Much
Accidents and Injuries
Accidents and injuries are common among those who consume too much alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgement, coordination, perception, and concentration. Impairment of these skills can result in a range of accidents, including falling down a flight of stairs or tripping on the sidewalk. The injuries resulting from such accidents can be minor or they can be severe. Within the past few years a number of college students have died in accidents while intoxicated. These accidental deaths include several students who have fallen from balconies or bedroom windows, drowned in lakes or ponds on the way home from a party, or tripped on the sidewalk.
Alcohol, when used to excess, can cause alcohol poisoning. The effects of alcohol poisoning can range from vomiting to falling into a coma and subsequent death. Too much alcohol can cause vital organs, such as the heart and lungs, to slow down and even stop, which results in death. Very often someone who dies from alcohol poisoning passes out and is allowed to “sleep it off.” This is a mistake. Anyone who drinks so much that they become unconscious or exhibit any of the signs below should receive immediate attention.
Warning signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
- Slow rate of respiration (eight breaths per minute or less)
- Irregular rate of respiration (ten seconds or more between breaths)
- Vomiting while "sleeping" or passed out without waking up
- Disoriented to time and place (doesn’t know where they are)
- Unconsciousness and inability to be awakened
Unprotected Sex and Sexual Assault
Alcohol use can result in a number of sexual consequences, including unprotected sex and sexual assault. Most sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol on the part of the perpetrator or the victim. Alcohol misuse can result in impaired judgement, which can put you at risk for either committing a sexual assault or becoming the victim of a sexual assault.
Why should I eat before and during drinking?
Food slows down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and gives your body more time to metabolize the alcohol and get it out of your system. Foods that are high in protein or high in fat are especially effective. Beverages, such as water or anything carbonated, will result in increased absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
Do all drinks contain the same amount of alcohol?
Some drinks are stronger than others, but in general a 1 ounce shot, a 12 ounce domestic beer, a 12 ounce wine cooler, a properly mixed drink, or a 4 ounce glass of wine all contain about .05 ounces of alcohol. Some mixed drinks and some types of beer (imported, ice, malt liquor) contain more than .05 ounces of alcohol.
Are a woman and a man equally affected by the alcohol they consume?
In general, women will be more affected by the alcohol they consume than a man of the same size and weight. Women typically have a higher percentage of body fat than men and will absorb more of the alcohol they consume. Women also tend to have less of an enzyme which helps to break down alcohol in the stomach. As a result, a woman can absorb almost a third more alcohol than a man when they drink.
How long does it take for the liver to process the alcohol contained in one drink?
It takes the liver about an hour to metabolize the amount of alcohol contained in a standard drink (.05 ounces of alcohol). Drinking coffee or taking a cold shower will not speed up the process. Only time can make a person sober.
Rohypnol and GHB
Rohypnol (also called "ruffies" or the “date rape” drug) and GHB are two drugs that are often implicated in sexual assaults. These drugs are sometimes used recreationally but are often given to a person without their knowledge or consent. They are odorless and tasteless (GHB can leave a slightly salty taste in a drink) and can be easily dissolved in a drink. When either of these drugs is administered, you can suffer from disinhibition, loss of consciousness, and the inability to remember events that took place while under the influence.
Signs That You May Have Been Drugged with Rohypnol or GHB
- If you feel more intoxicated than usual given the amount of alcohol you consumed
- If you wake up hung over, feeling “fuzzy,” experiencing memory lapses, and can’t account for a period of time
- If you cannot remember what happened after consuming your last drink
- If you feel as though someone had sex with you but you can’t remember any or all of the incident
What To Do If You Are Drugged
- Go to a safe place
- Get help immediately
- Ask a friend to stay with you and assist you in getting the help you need
- Call the local police
- Go to a hospital emergency department as soon as possible for an examination and evidence collection
- Request that the hospital take a urine sample to test for drugs in your system
- If you believe that you were sexually assaulted, preserve as much physical evidence as possible. Do not urinate, shower, bathe, douche, or throw away the clothing that you were wearing during the incident.
How to Avoid Being Drugged
- Do not drink beverages that you did not open yourself.
- Do not share or exchange drinks with anyone.
- Do not drink from a punch bowl or from a container that is being passed around.
- Do not leave your drink unattended; if you do, throw it away.
- If someone offers you a drink from the bar, accompany the person to the bar to order the drink, watch the drink being poured, and carry the drink yourself.
- Do not drink anything that has an unusual taste or appearance (e.g., salty taste, excessive foam, unexplained residue, etc.)