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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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How to: Stay safe in Aggieland

There+are+several+noticeable+ways+to+determine+if+a+drink+has+been+spiked+that+should+be+taken+into+account+during+a+night+out%2C+whether+that+is+in+Aggieland+or+elsewhere.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Graphic by Melanie McBride

There are several noticeable ways to determine if a drink has been spiked that should be taken into account during a night out, whether that is in Aggieland or elsewhere. 

College is the prime time to have new experiences, meet new people and try things outside of your comfort zone. However, during these fun times, ensuring the safety of yourself and others should be the top priority when out in Aggieland.
Here are six tips to have a safe night out with friends in public:
Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts
University Police Department, or UPD, Lt. Bobby Richardson said when in public, it is essential to pay constant attention to everything going on around you.
“Today, we spend a lot of time on our phones or listening to music with earbuds. We get distracted with technologies,” Richardson said. “Mainly, just keep your head up, [be] alert, and pay attention to your surroundings.”
If something feels wrong, Richardson said it is important to trust your gut.
“Trust your instincts, and don’t ignore them,” Richardson said. “We’ve all had that gut feeling about a particular person or place or something like that. That’s our body trying to tell us something’s wrong. For our instincts to work, though, we have to be aware of our surroundings — they tie in together.”
Use the Buddy System
Richardson said there is safety in numbers, and it is best to go out with a group of people.
“Watch out for your friends, and have your friends watch out for you,” Richardson said. “Don’t leave them behind; don’t try to meet up with them later. Stay together, and stay in the group.”
Always watch your drinks
Richardson said he urges individuals to be extra vigilant when consuming alcohol in public settings.
“Don’t drink from a can or bottle that you didn’t open yourself or that bar staff [didn’t give] you, and don’t leave your drink unattended,” Richardson said. “Avoid things like punch bowls or drinks that are being passed around in a group setting. If your drink has an unusual taste or appearance, like a salty taste or unexplained residue, just throw it out. And again, watch out for your friends, and have your friends watch out for you.”
Drink spiking is a deliberate act that involves putting alcohol into a non-alcoholic drink, adding extra alcohol to an alcoholic beverage or slipping prescription or illegal drugs, such as benzodiazepines or amphetamines, into a drink, according to an article on the Better Health Channel’s website, managed by Australia’s Department of Health.
“Women are more likely to have their drinks spiked than men,” the article reads. “Many people do not think they are at risk of drink spiking and do not consider it a common occurrence. Drinks can be spiked by people you know or have just met. You may not consider an unknown person to be a stranger after talking to them for a while — then [you] are more likely to accept a drink from them.”
According to a post by @studentbeans on Instagram, common ways to distinguish if a drink has been tampered with or spiked is a foggy appearance, excess bubbles, sinking ice or change in color.
The Better Health website reads that drink spiking symptoms may include:

  • “Feeling drunk, woozy or drowsy
  • “Feeling ‘out of it’ or drunker than expected
  • “Mental confusion
  • “Speech difficulties, such as slurring
  • “Memory loss
  • “Loss of inhibitions
  • “Nausea and vomiting
  • “Breathing problems
  • “Muscle spasms or seizures
  • “Loss of consciousness
  • “An unusually long hangover
  • “A severe hangover when you had little or no alcohol to drink.”

Always plan a ride ahead, never drink and drive
Richardson said it is crucial to never drink and drive, to designate a sober driver before going out and to give that driver your keys.
“Just don’t drink and drive,” Richardson said. “Drinking and driving is a choice. Make the right one.”
One alternative if a group doesn’t have a designated driver is utilizing Texas A&M’s CARPOOL services. CARPOOL is a university rideshare program dedicated to ending drunk driving in the Bryan-College Station area. The company’s goal is to give safe, non-judgmental and confidential rides home to anyone, including non-students, in the Bryan-College Station area for free.
Director of CARPOOL Public Relations Emily Fillip said CARPOOL’s services are available on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
“Our main concern is to keep drunk drivers off the road and get them home safely, but you do not need to be drunk to get a ride,” Fillip said. “If you ever find yourself stranded somewhere or in an unsafe situation and need a ride home, we can take you home. All the resident needs to do is call our number, 979-693-9905, which is also on the back of the [A&M] Student IDs. Once they call, one of our members will pick up and begin to put them on the waitlist.”
Know the signs of alcohol poisoning
Besides utilizing CARPOOL’s services, Fillip said it is important to be aware of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, to stay hydrated while drinking and to always stick with a friend.
“Symptoms include confusion [or] inability to answer basic questions, unconscious[ness], vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, blue gums or fingernails, low pulse, low body temperature and unresponsiveness,” Fillip said.
It is nearly impossible to self-diagnose alcohol poisoning, and Fillip said because of this, it is important to watch out for your friends and to not hesitate to call 911 or take someone who is exhibiting any or all of these symptoms to the emergency room. It is better to be safe than sorry, Fillip said.
“Always have a cup of water in hand while drinking alcohol, or at least drink water between drinks,” Fillip said. “Along with that, stick with a friend. Watching out for one another really helps because you never know when one of you might end up drinking a bit too much.”
Although, CARPOOL has no stance on alcohol, and the company wants students to have fun while staying safe, Fillip said.
“If your friend appears intoxicated, gets sick or passes out, is having trouble breathing or walking, do what you need to do to make sure your friend is safe and call 911 immediately,” Richardson said.
Watch for sexual predators
Being aware of the people around you both in social settings and in one’s interpersonal life is important to staying safe. Licensed psychologist at Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, Kari Keller Becker, Ph.D., said she always encourages people to trust their instincts and to leave a person and/or situation if something feels off or uncomfortable.
“The biggest point with this topic is that a victim of an assault is never to blame,” Becker said. “Unfortunately, a person can do all the ‘right things’ to protect themselves and still be victimized. Relatedly, a person can do all the ‘wrong things’ by putting themselves in a high-risk position, but that is still not an invitation for someone to violate their safety and wellbeing. The best way for us as a society to stop assaults is to address the problem with the perpetrators, not require people who are disproportionately victimized to take more safety precautions.”
Becker said it is always wise to make thorough plans and back-up plans for risky situations. When meeting with unfamiliar people in private settings, like a date, Becker said tips to maximize safety include meeting with the person in a safe, public location, driving separately, letting a trusted friend know ahead of time where you are going, who you are meeting up with and that you will text or call them when you’re home safely and to create a “code word” or phrase that you can text if you need them to call with an “emergency” to get you out of an unsafe situation.
Additionally, Becker said the following resources are available for when anyone feels unsafe in either a party or private setting:

  • Call 911
  • Call a trusted friend or family member
  • Call HelpLine (979) 845-2700
  • Call for an Uber or Lyft to leave
  • Call the SARC hotline (979) 731-1000
  • Call the RAINN hotline (800) 656-4673

CAPS provides short-term individual counseling, group therapy, workshops, crisis intervention and psychiatric services to all students, including those who have experienced sexual assault, Becker said.
“Student Assistance Services [or SAS] is a part of the Offices of the Dean of Student Life that seeks to connect Texas A&M University students with the appropriate guidance, resources and support to address a variety of personal and academic matters,” Becker said. “SAS can be a beginning point of contact for information or questions about a variety of topics, including sexual assault.”

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