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Chapter 1.   Party Time... where the action is!

Most people could not understand why I would go to a party if I did not intend to drink. This shows that many people probably go to parties for the sole purpose of getting drunk.

Jason R., University of Massachusetts, senior


I usually have just two or three drinks at a party. I really do not understand why some people get so trashed.

Allen B., Brown University, sophomore


Getting wasted is what it’s all about.

John J., University of Oregon, sophomore

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a party is “a gathering to which guests are invited in order to enjoy one another’s company.” Sooner or later most college students find themselves at a campus party. It might be a full-blown kegger in a friend’s dingy basement or a tightly managed gathering sponsored by a liability-conscious fraternity. Maybe it’ll be a small get-together in a residence hall where people play video games and have engaging conversations Then again, it might be an off-campus party where pot, LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy or maybe some cocaine will be available.


Most students who attend campus parties consume alcohol and yet, despite the exaggerated representations in the mass media, most of them drink at a low risk level. Many others do drink to varying levels of impairment, thereby putting themselves and others at risk for a variety of possible difficulties. As part of  the alcohol-education component of a variety of drug and addiction related courses I have conducted, students have been challenged to attend a party and abstain from alcohol. Below is a composite of excerpts from over four hundred reports by students who attended numerous different parties but did not consume alcohol. The excerpts provide both the male and the female perspective. Some students had a great time, but for others it was a difficult experience. Many were pressured to drink, while others were respected for their choice to abstain. All found this challenge quite revealing. By the way, the quotes from these students have not been edited at all!


9:00 PM

When I arrived at the door I resented being screened by the guys. You’re looked over to make sure you are “good enough.” However, I have never heard of a girl being rejected. As the saying goes, “If you have a chest, you’ll get in.”


The whole place smelled of stale beer and alcohol and the floor was one giant puddle of beer topped off with old broken plastic beer cups. 


I watched my friends go immediately to the keg. They didn’t even stop to see who was there or to socialize for a couple of minutes. At first I thought this was funny, but then I realized after watching the door for awhile that just about everyone who walked in went straight for the keg. They saved their hellos until after their beers were safely in their hands. It was almost as if they needed the beer to socialize.


They were offering beer, mixed drinks, shots, basically all types of alcohol, but nothing that was non-alcoholic. I really resented that.


10:00 PM

I was not really surprised by what I first saw. It was about 10:00 PM so it was still early. Not many of the hundred or so people there had much to drink yet, so things were relatively quiet. Not long after that though, that is, two or three beers later, people began to loosen up.


When we reached the basement, the stench of beer and cigarettes filled the air. It was funny that all three of us noticed the same thing. Everyone reeked of alcohol. People were piled up in front of the kegs waiting impatiently for their beers. Nasty words were being exchanged between a number of people. We laughed at the thought of not having to be stuck between all those sweaty strangers.


I felt out of place because I was the only one not holding a beer. As the night went along I felt less out of place because people were finally accepting the fact that I was not drinking. 


Everyone accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to drink and we all had fun nonetheless. They realized that just ‘cause I wasn’t drunk it didn’t mean that I couldn’t have fun with them. 


There were groups of guys by the kegs that were having drinking contests to see who could drink the most the fastest.


11:00 PM

The lines for the girls’ rooms were outrageous and once inside they made you sick. Who knows what those drunk girls did in there to make it smell so bad.


I was really falling apart and was not enjoying it. All the drunk people kept bumping into me and getting on my nerves. I wasn’t thinking of hitting anyone but I was considering hitting the bottle and putting this project off for another night. The thing that killed me the most was how rude everyone was to each other. There was a person passed out in the corner and I guess nobody moved him because he looked so comfortable.


I was having fun watching everyone slur and spit on each other.


I didn’t appreciate trying to talk to someone and have them spit in my face. I needed to escort my friend to the bathroom every five minutes. I was embarrassed to be standing next to her when she flirted with a total stranger, a stranger I know she never would have given a second look if she wasn’t drunk. I guess the beer goggles were taking over.


They would laugh at things that I didn’t find at all funny.


People pushed and shoved me all night without saying sorry or excuse me.


I walked into the bathroom and someone was taking a leak in the shower.


I went over to my friends and began to dance with them. It was actually more fun without alcohol because I wasn’t spilling beer all over myself.


But, I just had to accept the fact that others were going to spill beer on me anyway.


As many people got intoxicated, they seemed to feel uncomfortable interacting with me, a sober person. As the night went on, fewer and fewer intoxicated people came to talk to me.


I usually thought the guys were the loud, obnoxious ones. But some of the girls were even worse than the guys. The party was getting really loud because everyone was trying to talk over everyone else and the music, too. I don’t think I listened to a conversation that didn’t include plenty of profanity. Some of the sexual tones of the conversations were actually quite disgusting and they sounded quite sexist, too.


I had a great time talking to people and dancing. I liked the feeling of being in control of my actions. I stayed at the party and had a good time. It was a pleasant change for me. Another thing I noticed was how hostile people became. Both males and females were getting in what seemed to be very violent moods. It seemed like a couple of guys wanted to start a fight with anyone who walked by them. Girls spoke about grudges they had with other girls.


At midnight I was totally bored, sick of getting bumped into, spilled on, and tired of listening to these intoxicated people spouting a bunch of bull.


The thing that got me was the beer dumping. Two boys within an hour decided to come up to me, look me straight in the face and proceed to dump beer down the front of my blouse. If they were that curious as to the size of my chest all they needed to do was ask. I do think though that if I was drunk I would have viewed it as funny.


I felt like leaving early. It seemed like I was weighing down everyone’s good time. I just didn’t think all that was happening was so funny.


Something that struck me funny was watching my drunk brothers and friends trying to scoop. They try so hard and most of the time get shot down. I saw one scoop this girl and I know when they woke up they both were going to wish she would have shot him down. I saw him the next morning and asked him how his night went. He laughed and just walked away. Girls are not so bad because they usually arrive and leave with their friends. They watch out for each other.


The bathrooms were horrible. Of course there was no toilet paper, so my girlfriends and I needed to drip dry.


1:00 AM

Many couples were leaving, ones that had either just met that night or had known each other from a party or two ago.


As the night moved on I was grabbed and prodded by drunk guys. I usually don’t say anything about this stuff if I’m drinking. But I saw this guy actually put his hand up a girl’s skirt. I stopped to think about it and realized that when I drink and let someone paw at me I am really degrading myself.


The guys and girls alike were wearing their “beer goggles” and checking each other out. What begins as a night out with friends turns into a “scooping” fest. Drunk guys would come up to us and begin to tell us meaningless things about their manhood and why we should go home with them.


All I wanted to do was drink or get high and the rest of the night went the same until I met a girl and left with her. No, I didn’t scoop her, I just walked her home. It was a cool way to end the night. I think the fact that I was sober impressed her. I’ve already gone out with her twice and think this could be the start of something new.


My friend stayed at the party with some guy. I tried to get her to leave but she insisted she was OK. It really scared me to leave her in that place but what could I do?


By one o’clock our clothes were covered with beer. At this point we wanted a beer just so we could deal with the idiots.


2:00 AM

It seemed as though it was now the designated pickup hour. Girls were working on guys and guys on girls. If someone was shot down they would move on to the next one. At this point people seemed to have lowered their standards.


Often it’s in the early hours of the morning when violence may occur. Fights seem to be ready to break out all over the place. Most of the time these fights are over the most ridiculous reasons. One excuse this night was “He kept staring at me.”


We ended up leaving the party a little early because we thought the atmosphere was turning into one of those “hooking up” ones. Guys and girls were dirty dancing and kissing and we knew some didn’t know each other before the night started.


Finally my friends decided they wanted to leave mainly because the beer ran out. I was never so happy to get out of there. I helped my friends stumble home and wondered how I usually make it home safely. I guess I’ve been lucky.


3:00 AM

I noticed this girl leaving, or should I say being carried home. She had writing all over her. When you pass out people do crazy things to you. She was lucky it was only some silly scribbling.


I escorted three of my drunk friends home. Dodging the RAs and security was a memory. When I got back to the comfort of my room I realized I brought the party home with me. I stunk! I went in to take a shower and found two of my friends throwing up.


People had real bad attitudes when the beer ran out at three in the morning. I was thinking to myself, “Damn, these guys have been here for five hours, can barely walk and they want more beer.” But I know I’m the same way when I’m drunk. I know I probably shouldn’t drink another drop but I still run my mouth. Trying to kick people out after the beer was gone was a real chore. People just didn’t want to leave because they thought there was a “hush” keg.


The Next Day

When I woke up after a good night’s sleep, I felt terrific and headache free. It was a memorable experience. I kept thinking “I hope I don’t get like they did, but I’m sure I have.” That is a very troubling thought.


This made me realize that every beer brings more danger to the drinker. I cannot say I will never drink at a party again but I think I will be more careful now. Being on the sober side made me realize the dangers of being on the drunken side, and this awareness will hopefully help me in the future.


I’m sure many of my friends were jealous that I was able to get up early, go mountain biking, have a picnic with two friends and come home to study for Monday’s exam.


It really annoys me when I go to a party and don’t drink but wake up the next morning feeling like I’m hung over because my hair smells so much like smoke.


By not drinking that night, it positively changed my whole weekend. I didn’t sleep away the next day. I got some school work done. The usual “Sunday depression” didn’t affect me.


I was appalled by the behavior, but what bothered me even more was thinking that maybe I acted the same way they did when I am drinking.


I woke up without a hangover. My friends were dragging around feeling the effects of last night’s drinking. One of my friends said to me, “Wow, I can’t believe you don’t have a hangover. You were having so much fun dancing and laughing. You must have been trashed.” I realized how sad that comment was. She did not know that what she was saying was that you can’t have fun without alcohol. I shook my head and walked away.


From the History Books

Following an evening of heavy consumption Nero and his drinking buddies in Imperial Rome would beat up citizens for fun, do damage to private properties and engage in drunken brawls that endangered life and limb. Nero loved to push his companions into sewers.


Party Risks


As you can tell by the experiences of these students, attending a campus party can be fun. It can also be an extremely high-risk activity. There are risks taken not only by the drinkers but also by all those involved in the party:


  • The drinkers risk an injury from a fight or a fall. They also risk acquaintance rape or the spread of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases due to impaired judgment. An alcohol-related car crash is another risk. At the very least, many may spend the morning “talking to God through the great white telephone” during a mean, painful hangover.


  • Hosts risk lawsuits from drinkers who may be injured or from those injured by the drinkers. There’s also a strong probability of property damage to their residence.


  • Non-drinkers risk being involved in any of the aforementioned scenarios just by simply being there.


  • Colleges and universities continue to be at risk for possible lawsuits if the hosts of the parties are in some way affiliated with the institution.


Is party a noun or a verb? When we hear someone say, “I’m going to really party tonight,” more often than not it means, “I’m going to get really trashed tonight.” On the campus today, to party is now synonymous with to get drunk or to get high on other drugs. Therefore students set themselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy: If I’m going to party, I’m going to get wasted. Later in this book we will look at some strategies for attending parties and enjoying yourself while minimizing your risk for an alcohol-related problem. In the meantime, let’s take a look at this stuff called alcohol.

VIDEO: College Parties Hollywood Style

Here's a brief look at some of the classic moments of  college parties depicted by Hollywood.


Personal Challenge: Party Observations


  • To raise awareness of the behaviors of college students at a party where alcohol is being consumed.


  • Attend a campus or off-campus party where alcohol will be served.

  • Do not consume alcohol.

  • Observe the behaviors of the participants. What are they like early in the party? What are they like later in the party? Do people try to get you to drink?

  • Observe your own behaviors while at the party.



  • How did you feel at the party?

  • Can you have fun at a party without drinking?

  • How do you handle pressure from your peers to drink? What can you do to minimize the impact of peer pressure?

  • How well do you socialize with others at a party if you do not drink?

  • What was the impact of alcohol on the atmosphere of the party? On you?

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