Not all UW Tacoma students choose to drink or use other drugs like cannabis. If you choose not to drink alcohol, know that you are not alone -- about 30% of UW undergrads don’t drink. If you’re a student in recovery, someone who has never consumed alcohol, or someone who chooses not to drink, we hope you feel supported in your decision.
For students that choose to drink or use drugs, we just want you to be safe. Remember that alcohol and cannabis use is illegal for people under 21 years of age in Washington State and driving after drinking any amount of alcohol and using any amount of cannabis is not recommended regardless of your age. Because cannabis is illegal federally, per the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, marijuana use, possession and public use remain illegal, regardless of age, on all campuses in Washington, including in residence halls.
If you choose to drink, consider keeping track of the number of drinks you consume using the standard drink measurement. Standard drinks help you keep track of how much pure alcohol you’ve consumed across different alcoholic beverages, and how intoxicated you become. One standard drink contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. This means that a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5-ounces of 80 proof liquor have the same amount of pure alcohol.
Remember one cup or one container of alcohol does not equal “one” drink. For example, an 18-ounce red cup of beer is actually 1.5 standard drinks, a mixed drink with three shots is actually 3 standard drinks, and a cup of the “mystery punch” in the corner of a party is just that – a mystery – in terms of how many standard drinks it contains.
Using standard drink measurements to keep track of how much pure alcohol we consume and therefore how intoxicated we become if we choose to drink can be an effective strategy for reducing risk of negative outcomes and alcohol related harm.
Blood Alcohol Concentration
Each standard drink consumed increases our blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, by about .02-.04, depending on weight and sex at birth. For example, if a person weighing 120 pounds drinks the same amount of alcohol as a person weighing 220 pounds, the person weighing less will become intoxicated more quickly than the person weighing more. Additionally, females make less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach when it is consumed, which means that more alcohol is absorbed into the blood and increases BAC more quickly compared to males. The legal limit to drive is .08 BAC.
Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency and can occur when people drink too much alcohol too fast, and their bodies aren’t able to keep up with the toxic levels of alcohol and begins to shut down. This is considered an alcohol overdose. If any one of these signs are present, someone could be experiencing alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening medical emergency.
If the person is unconscious and cannot be awoken.
If their skin is cold clammy, pale or bluish in color.
If their breathing is slow or irregular, less than one breath every ten seconds.
If they have vomited while passed out.
If one or more of these signs are present, take the following emergency response steps:
Call 911 or delegate someone to call.
Turn the person onto their side in the “recovery position.” Start with the person lying flat on their back. Put one arm over the person’s head, and lift the opposite knee up, making the shape of a flamingo's legs. Place the opposite elbow on chest, roll to one side. With the knee and elbows serving as kickstand, tuck other hand under chin.
If breathing stops, perform CPR or find someone who knows how.
Do not leave the person alone. Wait with the person for first responders to arrive.
Good Samaritan Law & Amnesty
Washington’s Good Samaritan Law encourages you to get emergency medical assistance for another person without worrying about getting yourself or that person in trouble. When you call 911 for emergency medical attention related to drug use and/or overdose for someone else, both you and the person you are calling about are immune from drug possession charges. This is true for alcohol and all other drugs, and for those who are under and over the age of 21.
UW Tacoma also takes steps to mitigate barriers to students being active bystanders for fear of consequences of alcohol or drug possession or use. Students who, while in the course of helping another student seek medical assistance, admits to the unlawful possession or use of alcohol or drugs, provided that the possession was for personal consumption and the use did not place the health or safety of any other person at risk, may not experience formal alcohol and drug violation sanctions from UW Tacoma.
Reduce your risk of negative outcomes and alcohol related harm if you choose to drink.
Choose not to drink alcohol
Stay with the same group of friends the entire time
Eat before or during drinking
Keeping track of drinks consumed
Stick with one type of alcohol
Determine in advance not to exceed set number of drinks
Have a friend let you know when you have had enough
Alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic beverages
Avoid drinking games
Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs, including cannabis
Cannabis & Smoking / Vaping / Tobacco Use
Quitting or Cutting Back on Tobacco, Vaping, and Nicotine
Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant drug found naturally in tobacco plants. With recurring use of tobacco, a person may become addicted to nicotine.
Smoking, vaping, and use of other nicotine products is prohibited on UWT campus outside of six designated areas: https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/Tacoma_map.pdf. It’s never too late to quit or cut back on tobacco and vaping! Quitting and staying quit is possible. Support and resources are available to Washington state and Pierce County residents.
Consider these strategies to reduce your risk of negative outcomes if you choose to use cannabis.
Choose not to use
Don’t mix with alcohol or any other substance
Avoid sharing joints or bongs
Use only in a safe place
Choose lower THC products
Don’t use synthetics
Avoid deep inhalation if smoking
Buy less so you use less
Avoid use the day or night before an important or new challenge
Avoid driving at least 5 hours after smoking, longer after edibles
Do not vape cannabis
Do not use where cannabis is illegal
Avoid self-medicating with cannabis
Purchase only through an authorized dispensary
Avoid use if you are pregnant
Campus & Community Resources
Check In WA
Check In WA is an anonymous program designed to be a personal, self-check in for young adults. The program helps you to reflect on how you are feeling and provides tips for managing stress and substance use, and improving overall well-being. Customized resources are included.
The Washington Recovery Help Line is an anonymous, confidential 24-hour help line for Washington State residents experiencing a substance use disorder, problem gambling, and/or a mental health challenge. Our professionally-trained volunteers and staff provide emotional support and connect callers with local treatment resources or more community services.