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Social Health and Substances

photo with text reading tips for financial stabilityReflecting on your well-being plan and choices around substances can help improve your personal and social health. Just like any other health behavior, such as how we eat, sleep, and choose to move, how (if at all) someone consumes substances can impact many other aspects of well-being. Beyond personal well-being, exploring relationships with alcohol and other drugs can help to foster a safe environment for ourselves and others. Finding what’s right for you can help you to create the experiences you want to be having.

Know what's "normal."
Oftentimes, people believe that everyone in college is partaking in substance use, but that isn’t the case at UVA. This misperception can encourage people to use more in order to “fit in.

  • In 2020, only 18% of UVA students used tobacco or vape products.2
  • The majority of UVA students who drank last stopped drinking before they got drunk,2 and 71% had a BAC lower than 0.1%2
  • Most students who partake in drinking avoid being with a majority group of people that they do not know.1
  • In 2019, 29% of UVA students did not drink at all in a two month period.3 When they do choose to drink, most have 4 drinks or less.1
  • 83% of students who drink avoid mixing alcohol with other substances.3

1Norms 2020
2State of Hoo Health 2020, National College Health Assessment Results 2020, pp 12-14
3State of Hoo Health 2021, Spring Health Survey Results 2021, pp 8&10

Find what is right for you.
This may be a process of trial and error, but remember that what works for a roommate, teammate, or friend may not always work for you. You are your own person with your own body that will react uniquely to substances.

  • Know what and how much you are having. Remember to watch your drink being made or to make your own drink. One standard drink is 1.5 oz liquor, 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine. Understand the strength and serving size of other substances. 
  • Stick to your plan. Know before you go -- What type of experiences do you want to have? What time do you want to be home? How do you want to feel in the morning? Where and with whom do you feel comfortable? When are you going to take time to eat, especially protein? Share these thoughts with a friend who can help you set boundaries. Stay with people you know.
  • Give your body time. Make sure to intersperse your substance use with water and time. Remember, your body can process approximately one standard drink per hour. The only thing that can truly “sober you up” is time. 

Decide if you need a change.
Sometimes using a substance can become more of a habit than a choice. It is important to evaluate your use every once in a while and make sure that you are creating the experiences you want. 

  • Ask what the purpose of the substance is. Are you trying to solve something? Is it the safest and most effective method? Is it sustainable? Is it causing more problems than it is solving? “Self-prescribing” substances to change something can be a dangerous slope; if you notice this habit, it might be a good time to look for healthier habits.
  • Know how substances interact. If there is more than one substance at play, especially alcohol and any type of medication (from allergy meds to prescriptions), make sure to talk with your doctor about how they might interact. It is also important to research how these substances will interact with your body, whether it be chemically, physiologically, or mentally, which you can do with a simple google search.
  • Evaluate for warning signs. If your substance use is affecting your daily routine, sleep, appetite, significant weight fluctuations, relationships, or mental health, it may be a sign to make a change.

"I always use the buddy system when I’m going out at night. Staying with a friend is important in any situation because it not only ensures I get home safely, but also makes me feel safe throughout the entire experience and allows me to enjoy my time without worrying.” – C.B-K.