Having a fun and responsible 21st birthday. It’s a thing.

By: Gabriella Villacis Davies, University of Maryland Health Center Peer Educator

Happy_Birthday!I recently had the pleasure of celebrating my 21st birthday. In our society, many consider it a milestone or a rite of passage. Finally, I can be as reckless as I want and no one can stop me, right?

Not quite.

Being able to legally drink is a big responsibility, and celebrating your new privilege does not have to mean taking 21 shots in one night or blacking out.

So, lets go through some tips on how to drink responsibly on your 21st birthday.

While this information is geared towards people who choose to drink, specifically on their 21st birthday, I want to point out a couple things:

  • Not everyone chooses to drink, birthday or not! In fact 21.5% of UMD students don’t drink at all, and another 10.5% drink less than once a month!
  • If you don’t drink now, but might in the future, this information can be useful to you.
  • These are great practices for drinking in general and can really help reduce the risk of harm from drinking alcohol.

Tips for a Responsible 21st Birthday Celebration

  1. Eat beforehand. This seems like a pretty basic concept, but it’s important. Continually drinking on an empty stomach can have serious harmful effects on your body, not to mention – alcohol has pretty much zero nutritional value that your body needs to keep itself going.
  2. Know your limits and pace yourself. Some of us have tested our drinking limits before the age of 21, but if today is your first night consuming alcohol, it’s not a time to experiment. Here are some helpful things to keep in mind when thinking about your limit (number of drinks) and your pace (how fast you’re drinking), including your weight and your age. No one wants to spend his or her birthday vomiting or being babysat – and your friends don’t want to spend your birthday this way, either!
  3. Don’t cave to peer pressure. You are finally legal, of course everyone wants to celebrate and buy you drinks! However, when you know you have had enough, politely decline. If they are really pressuring you, try these strategies:
    1. Hold on to one beer/cup all night and just don’t drink it. When people ask to buy you another, say “oh someone JUST got me this! But thanks!”
    2. Excuse yourself to the bathroom and pour out the drink.
    3. Put water, juice or soda in a cup and just say there is alcohol in there.
    4. Find a friend who will stick up for you and support you!
  4. Alternate drinking alcohol with water. Drinking water will keep you from becoming dehydrated from the alcohol consumption and will also slow your pace.
  5. Finally, don’t forget, you don’t have to drink to have a fabulous 21st birthday. There are plenty of people out there who refrain from drinking alcohol, and that’s pretty cool, especially when you feel like everyone around is drinking. If that’s you, you can enjoy your 21st birthday with your friends by going out to dinner, going to a show, or doing anything else you love.

However you choose to celebrate, remember to do it responsibly for both you and the company around you.

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