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Freshers week: how to be safe and still have a good time away from home

If this is your first time moving away from home then there’s a whole host of new and exciting experiences ahead. Whether you’re moving from a tiny village or another city, being safe in a new environment is really important. This might be the first time you’ve had the chance to go clubbing or out to gigs and parties, so it’s important to follow some basic tips to be safe but still have a great time.

Get to know your area

An unfamiliar town or city will mean a whole new way of navigating your way around. From walking to taxis to buses and even trams, working out how to get from A to B is a must, particularly if you go out at night. If you’re out with friends, make sure you stick together as a group and plan your way home in advance. 

It sounds like a no-brainer but when you add alcohol and/or drugs into a night out then getting home can be quite a challenge if you don’t know how to get back. Never walk home alone and make sure you have a taxi app downloaded but ideally have enough cash on you so you can flag down a cab too. If you must walk, make sure you avoid unlit, quiet areas like alleyways or parks.

Most importantly, try not to get separated from your friends and plan ahead for what to do if you do find yourself alone. Arrange an emergency meeting point or use apps like WhatsApp or Life360 to share your location with friends.

Which brings us to..alcohol

If you're heading out for the night and you plan to drink, there are a couple of simple things you can do to stay in control and ensure you have a great time.

Have a meal before you go out and grab some snacks between drinks. This helps to slow down the absorption of alcohol, helping you stay in control 

Sip a glass of water between drinks to stay hydrated and slow down your alcohol consumption over the course of the night – or even better, switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks

Consider non alcoholic options - there are a lot of refreshing and tasty zero alcohol or very low alcohol content drinks on the market now. 

If you are heading round to a friend’s for pre-drinks or pre’s, try and avoid drinking too much too quickly as this can really have an impact later on in the evening. You may even find that your night ends early if you’re not permitted entrance to a club for being too drunk.

Never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from someone you don’t know - there could be a chance that it’s been spiked. Spiking someone’s drink is a serious crime and should be reported immediately. 

Although you may think spiking is something primarily targeted at women, everyone should keep a watch out as it can happen to anyone. You’ll know if a friend has been spiked as they may say they feel sick, be confused, start acting in an unusual way, seem drunker than expected, have visual issues, a loss of balance or start to vomit.

Read our Spiking - How to Stay Safe on a Night Out to find out more.

‘Recreational’ drug use 

There are lots of reasons why people take drugs and if you’re at Uni or college, you may hear about or be around people who are taking drugs like MDMA/Ecstasy, Ketamine, Cocaine or Nos. These kinds of drugs are often called ‘recreational’ but this doesn’t mean they are for recreation or recommended.

For example, ketamine is actually a powerful anaesthetic. It is sold as a grainy white or light brown powder that may look similar to cocaine but is a very different drug and acts on your body and mind in a very different way.

If you’ve not taken drugs before then there’s no reason to start, but if you are thinking of trying something then make sure you understand the risks. Mixing alcohol with any drug will always increase the risk. And if you then go on to mix other drugs then there are a number of different effects you may experience on your body and mind.

If you are concerned about the effects of mixing drugs (including alcohol) our mixing tool can help you find out the effects of mixing drugs together. You can find this on any drug page under the risks section. 

The law

It is illegal to consume, produce, supply or possess most recreational drugs and psychoactive substances in the UK. If you’re an international student or moved to the UK from another country for work, the laws around drugs in the UK may be different to what you’re used to at home. The penalties if you are caught can be significant and may have an impact on your life in the future. 

Getting help with drug or alcohol use

Your doctor is a good place to start if you’re looking for support. They can help to refer you to more specialist drug and alcohol services or go to FRANK to get help to find support near you that provides counselling and treatment in England. If you’re not ready to speak to a medical professional or specialist service, you can talk to an advisor at your Student Union or Welfare Officer who can offer you confidential and impartial advice.

If you’re worried about anything to do with drugs or alcohol and want to talk to FRANK in confidence about yourself or about a friend, then you can call the helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0300 123 6600 or you can chat online between 2pm and 6pm every day.

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