Halloween Prep from the DARTeam: the Point of Diminishing Returns

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Halloween is coming up, and the college is gearing up for festivities. We’ve all been working hard, and this weekend provides some wonderful opportunities to blow off steam.

The DARTeam supports relaxing and fulfilling social lives; we’re not here to tell you what decisions to make. Keeping in mind that the Halloween party is one of the biggest of the year at Swarthmore, we have some suggestions to keep your experience safe and enjoyable, should you decide to attend.

One nice thing about the Halloween party is that it brings together a large cross-section of the student body, including both regular and more occasional party-goers. As always, consider your own experiences with alcohol if you are planning to drink. Alcohol affects people differently in different times and situations, and it’s all about making the choices that are right for you.

Know that, when pre-gaming, it’s easy to lose track of just how much alcohol you have had and to consume much more than you had intended. Pacing yourself (play a game, then sit one out; alternate with water) and counting your drinks can help you to keep track of how you’re feeling over time.

Mixing your drinks with soda or juice can be a way to moderate your alcohol intake. However, remember that sweet mixers can mask the taste of alcohol, and you may get more alcohol in a given drink than taste alone would suggest.

Make sure that you’ve seen your drinks prepared, and that they haven’t left your sight.

It’s tempting to drink more on big party nights, but drinking twice as much as you normally would is not necessarily twice as much fun. There is well-documented evidence of a “point of diminishing returns.” In the first stages of alcohol processing, alcohol typically acts as a stimulant or an “upper.” Many people report feelings of relaxation, euphoria or confidence. These stimulant effects are generally the ones that people seek out when drinking in social settings. However, as the body keeps on processing alcohol, it eventually becomes a depressant or “downer.” People at this stage may feel tired or sluggish, slur their speech, and start losing coordination. The point of “diminishing returns,” around 0.05-0.06 BAC for most people, is the peak of alcohol’s stimulant effects. After this point, successive alcoholic drinks will result in increasingly lower “highs” as well as lower “lows.” Alcohol’s stimulant effects become fewer and fewer as the depressant effects increase. There’s more information on BAC and diminishing returns here: http://www.rochester.edu/uhs/healthtopics/Alcohol/bac.html.

Drinking in a new place can affect even experienced drinkers in surprising ways. Research suggests that when people enter a place in which they are used to drinking, their bodies prepare to receive alcohol and counter its effects. For many of us, Sharples may not be as familiar a party location as Paces. As always, it’s a good idea to take it slow and see how you feel before you have more to drink.

Swarthmore is a small community; you’ll see these people every day, and we dearly hope for the Halloween party to be a space where everyone is safe, respected and comfortable. If you see someone who may be unable to cope with the effects of what they’ve consumed, remember that you can go to the PA’s for assistance; they’re there with our best interests at heart. Public Safety is available 24/7 as well. Their emergency number is (610) 328-8333.

According to national statistics, 92% of sexual assaults involve alcohol use by the perpetrator and/or the victim. If you have any uncertainty about risk reduction or recovery from sexual misconduct, S.M.A.R.T. (http://www.swarthmore.edu/x8345.xml) is an excellent on-campus resource, as is Worth Health Center. Both are confidential sources. For a more immediate response, contact Public Safety.

Happy Halloween, Swat. We hope you have a great weekend, however you spend it!

The Phoenix

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