Festive Fun & Party Pitfalls
Things to avoid
Christmas and New Year might mean more going out and partying, although this doesn't suit lots of people and that's ok too. Your mind and body may have lower tolerance for crowds and Christmas, whether this is how sensitive and safe you feel in your surroundings or your group or how your body reacts to lots of noise or drinking alcohol for example.
So, try not to feel pressured into situations in which you, or your friends, are uncomfortable. Always listen to your intuition, and if something doesn't feel right to you, despite what everyone thinks or says, then it's not right for you. What's important is that we all feel comfortable and go at our own pace.
What can I do to prepare?
If you're going out to have a great time, here are some tips to keep it that way…
Thinking about drinking alcohol?
- Make sure you know about alcohol and the law – it's illegal for someone under 18 to buy, attempt to buy or be sold alcohol.
But if you do try alcohol…
- Start slow and go slow. Learn your limits and stick to them.
- Alternate alcohol with soft drinks or water
- Food will provide you with the energy to keep you going, as well as line your stomach.
- Talk over a 'get away' with someone you trust so that if things get too crazy, you can call it a night and head home, perhaps with your bestie in tow.
- At the moment, more young people are drinking these small bottles of strong alcohol but take extra care as you could go over your limits without realising! (There is also a common myth that Magnums contain 'Viagra' like properties to aid stimulation during sex… always remember to use a condom!)
Alcohol is the most common substance used to spike drinks (putting drugs or alcohol into your drink without you knowing).
So avoid leaving your drink unattended and don't accept a drink from someone you don't know.
What about taking drugs?
- Most young people do not use illegal substances. Using drugs carries risks.
- It's important that you understand the law relating to illegal drugs, and the potential serious effects on your health, particularly mental health.
- Taking drugs whilst drinking alcohol can have a mix of unknown effects for different people, so it's always best to avoid mixing.
- If it's your first experience taking drugs like cannabis or cannabis edibles, make sure you start slow and steady.
Do not try to keep up with others who may have taken drugs before.
- Illegal drugs vary in strength and purity, and you won't know how strong they are or exactly what's in them. Tolerance levels can be very different for different people.
Consider the environment in which you or your friends might use drugs.
- How might it feel being intoxicated (feeling the effects of drugs)? What if you feel less in control of what happens in that situation? Consider if you or your friends have been open with each other about what they have taken and how much…what will you and your friends do if someone needs help or there is an emergency?
- Drinking this cough syrup/codeine mix is not a risk worth taking. Lean is an opioid (the same drug family as heroin), and is extremely easy to overdose. If you think your friend has overdosed you must call an ambulance as soon as possible).
- There is no safe way to take solvents, the risk of death is high and you take this chance every time you use them, It is best not to try at all!
Party Drugs – be in the know
'Party drugs' such as Ecstasy/MDMA are sold illegally as tablets, capsules or powder, with no guarantee of quality or purity. Many do not even include MDMA but are contaminated with harmful toxic substances.
Ecstasy/MDMA causes the body's nervous system to speed up (eg. faster heart rate, dizziness, nausea).
So, it's safer to avoid these drugs completely.
But if you do decide to take them, reduce your risk of harm by:
- Not taking multiple doses quickly. The first dose can take time to show its effects and so if you take more too soon, it can lead to an overdose
- Avoid mixing with other drugs
- Mixing with medications can be dangerous – eg. certain antidepressants
- Sip water regularly (around half a pint every hour)
- Keep cool
- Be ready to know what to do in an emergency and who you can go to for help
- Make sure someone knows what you are taking in case anything goes wrong
Cigarettes and vaping equipment both contain nicotine, which is an addictive stimulant. It's important to know that, in the UK, selling cigarettes or vaping equipment to someone under 18 is illegal and it is also illegal to buy them for someone else who is under 18.
When it's all going on
- Check in with yourself – how do you feel? Would you do this if you were alone? How will you feel tomorrow? What can you do to make this experience feel better?
- Good friends make you feel good – great mates respect your choices, whether this is saying that you've had enough or that you feel uncomfortable in a situation.
- Check in with your friends – do they look happy and present? Do they look tense and panicky? Or are they drowsy?
- Follow your instincts – if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. It is harder to live with the consequences of something going wrong than avoiding it in the first place.
- If things do go wrong, don't be afraid to offer or ask for help fast. Being the best friend you can, might mean giving basic first aid but it could even mean calling an emergency service should you need to.
Deciding to have sex?
Whether you are starting to date or having sex for the first time this Christmas, with a new partner or in a steady relationship, safer sex is best.
If you don't want to become pregnant, you need to use a method of contraception. Most methods of contraception will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so whatever method you chose, you'll also need to think about protection.
You can find out more about contraception here.
Practicing safe sex means using a condom for all types of sex, to keep you and your partner safe from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and from risk of pregnancy from penis/vagina sex.
You can access free condoms and STI testing here.
Know about consent
It is also very important that any sex you have is consensual. Sex with consent means that you both agree to do something sexual and feel happy and comfortable with it, with neither of you feeling pressured to do something you don't want to do.
Remember, even if you and your partner first consent, you always have the right to change your mind and say 'No' or 'Stop' at any time. 'No' means 'No' even if you are in a relationship, or you are drunk or high, or the sexual activity has already begun.
Being drunk or high might mean that you/your partner are unaware of what is going on and therefore are unable to give consent.
You can read more about sex, consent and the law on the Brook website here.
The morning after the night before
Hopefully, you had a great time but remember:
- Check in – the next day with yourself and your friends – you might feel low afterwards, especially if you've been drinking alcohol or smoked cannabis, or you are lacking sleep. Rest, eat, drink plenty of water and sleep.
- If you or your friends are feeling low, or are struggling to cope, contact one of the free national young people's helplines like Childline or text 'SHOUT' to 85258.
- If you’ve had unplanned and/or unprotected sex, you can usually prevent pregnancy if you act fast. Find your local service for emergency contraception (your GP, pharmacies and sexual health services are open either side of bank holidays) and STI testing at least 2 weeks later.
- If you or someone you know is worried about dealing with a drug or alcohol problem, call FRANK anytime confidentially on 0300 123 6600, or look for a local young people's substance misuse service near you.