You can party – but do it safely

Celebrating and partying is enjoyed by people of all ages, especially over the festive season. Teenagers in particular like to enjoy themselves, celebrate and party after their final matric exams, ritually marking the end of 12 years of schooling.

While celebrating this milestone is important and many parents support it, caution needs to be practised to ensure your safety and continued enjoyment. If you follow a few simple suggestions, it will help you stay safe while you’re having a good time. Informing yourself will allow you to be better prepared to protect yourself and your friends. Some of the things that can go wrong at these celebrations include binge drinking, drunk driving, unprotected sex, drug abuse and overdose, drink spiking, sexual assault, gate-crashing, fighting, injury and getting arrested for breaking the law.

Making smart decisions

Remember that you don’t have to use alcohol or drugs to have fun. There are loads of people who don’t drink, or aren’t old enough to drink. You don’t need to do it just because others pressurise you or you want to fit in. Ask others to respect your choice and likewise, respect theirs. Trust your own judgement.

“No, thanks” does not mean you are uncool, but instead indicates that you are courageous enough to protect yourself and have a right to refuse something.

Eat well before you leave home. A full stomach slows the absorption of alcohol.

Drink in moderation. Don’t let others top up your drinks. Choose non-alcoholic options wherever possible.

The best way to avoid drug-related problems is not to use at all. Illicit drugs at parties have seemingly become very common. Research the scientific facts of recreational drugs before considering taking them.

Mostly, it’s not all fun that others rave about.

Keep your wits about you and stay close to friends you trust.

Take condoms with you if you think you might end up having sex – and use them.

Don’t get into a car with a driver who has been drinking or drugging. This could cost you your life.

Remember that your judgement may be impaired if you’ve been drinking or taking drugs – don’t take risks you may regret, such as driving a vehicle or diving into water if you don’t know how deep it is or fooling around near swimming pools. Again these could be life-threatening decisions.

Leave for somewhere safe if you feel unsafe at a venue or party.

If you’re going out with friends to party

Know where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

Plan how to get home. Take enough money to share a taxi/Uber or nominate a driver to stay sober. Never sit in front of the Uber vehicle or taxi when you are alone. Keep your phone topped up and charged.

Have a plan B to get home if plan A falls through – for example, ask someone’s parent if they will give you a lift if you can’t get a taxi.

Decide to stay together in a group and look after each other.

Never leave your drink unattended and don’t accept a drink from a stranger. Don’t take your eyes off your drink. This could leave you vulnerable to somebody who plans to spike your drink.

Decide on a drink limit and stick to it. Occupy your hands with a soft drink or water once you’ve reached your limit, so you’re not tempted to keep getting or buying alcoholic drinks.

Avoid shots or drinking games. You are likely to make silly or even dangerous decisions when you have had too much to drink.

It is illegal to drink alcohol on the street or in a public place or to carry or use illicit drugs. Even if you’re drunk (and not just actively drinking) in public, the police are able to place you in custody. You could be arrested and conviction may impact on your future employment or travel plans.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to aggressive behaviour

Pace yourself so that you don’t lose control as a result of using alcohol or other drugs.

Don’t get into a verbal argument if someone aggressively confronts you. Walk away. This is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and courage.

Don’t go off with a person you’ve only just met. Stay in the public space. If they interest you, get their phone number instead.

Drug-related safety suggestions

Educate yourself about drugs and their effects. If you decide to use drugs, inform a sober friend so that if something goes wrong they can tell the ambulance staff what you have used.

Don’t assume that medications are a safer option than illegal drugs. Medications can be dangerous, even life threatening if abused.

Remember that illegal drugs are not manufactured to a precise formula like medicines. An illegal drug may be much stronger than you expect.

Be aware that mixing alcohol and drugs can put you in extreme danger of overdose.

The depressant effects of alcohol can mask the effects of stimulant drugs like speed.

If you are having a party at home

Insist attendance is by “invitation only” to reduce the risk of gate-crashers. Ask your guests not to spread the word to others via texting or the internet.

Indicate clearly on the invitation whether the party is
alcohol-free or if alcohol is provided or if guests should bring their own. Say whether cigarette smoking is permitted. State firmly that illegal drugs are not welcome.

Invite parents of party guests to call beforehand for details.

Ask parents of guests to provide transport to and from the party.

Secure all valuables on your property.

Make sure you have responsible adults on hand.

Make sure the host (and the host’s parents and other responsible adults) remain sober so that any problems can be dealt with quickly and safely.

Consider a hired security guard. It may seem extreme, but it could give you and your guests additional peace of mind.

Serve plenty of food. Guests are more likely to get drunk on an empty stomach.

Serve water and soft drinks.

Have a plan of action if a guest becomes drunk or ill. This might involve arranging for them to get home safely, or calling an ambulance on 10177 or 112 (from cellphone) if they’re seriously ill.

Ask gate-crashers to leave immediately or threaten that the police will be called. Follow through with your threats.

Call the police if you feel that a situation is beyond your control.

If you’ve been invited to a party at someone’s home

Don’t advertise the party via texting or the internet. You risk gate-crashers and violent situations.

Arrange for your parents to drive you to the party and pick you up at a designated time.

Give your parents the host’s phone numbers.

Find out what their party rules are.

Don’t keep quiet and allow unsafe behaviour. If you are concerned at all, speak to the host, the host’s parents or the designated responsible adults.

Always call for an ambulance in an emergency. Don’t avoid calling the ambulance because you’re afraid the police may become involved.

The person may suffer serious consequences if you delay getting them help.

Ambulance officers only care about saving lives. Statistics show that teenagers who are informed about safe partying are more likely to protect themselves and their friends.

Enjoy this celebratory time responsibly and safely.