Partying: 7 Things That Can Go Wrong

Why partying may be riskier than you think

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on January 10, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

Partying sounds fun. But sometimes, parties get out of hand.

Here are seven risky scenarios and ways to work around them.

1. Your friends want you to drink.

You already know that it's illegal if you're underage. But alcohol is often part of parties -- and some teens drink so much that they put their lives at risk.

"I've seen people come in barely breathing, they can't remember what happened the night before, they've thrown up, fell over, or peed on themselves, and ended up in the hospital with a plastic tube in their nose. There's nothing sexy or attractive about that," says Yale University ER doctor Darria Gillespie, MD, MBA.

And the earlier you start using alcohol or other drugs, the more likely you'll be addicted later on, Gillespie says.

What to do: Stay calm and say no. Pretty soon, people will forget about whether or not you're drinking. Bring your own cup to the party, filled with fruit punch and covered with a lid. That way you can say, "Thanks, I've got one," and change the subject, says Amee Nash, LPC, a counselor and community educator who has worked with teens and addiction for more than 10 years.

Or blame your parents, Nash says. Try one of these lines:

  • "If I do, this is the last time you'll see me at a party."
  • "I'll lose my car if I get caught."
  • "I was just grounded, so I don't want to get in trouble again."

Be aware that it wouldn't be hard for someone to slip something into your drink, such as a date rape drug like Rohypnol or GHB. So stick to nonalcoholic drinks, pour the drink yourself, and don't leave it unattended.  

"Whatever is going to help you stay safe, do it," Nash says.

2. You’re expected to play a risky game.

Apart from drinking games, there are some other dangerous party games you should absolutely never play.

  • "Skittling" or "Pill Parties." In this "game," people take random pills -- and that could kill them. "You can never gauge what effect you're going to have, or how little of a medication you have to take without the potential for dying," says Ryan Stanton, MD, medical director of the ER at the University of Kentucky Good Samaritan Hospital.
  • Strangulation game. Said to increase the euphoria of already being high or drunk, choking to cut off the brain's oxygen source even for a few seconds can cause permanent brain damage, Gillespie says. You could suffer memory problems, difficulty with language and recognizing things, or lose function of your leg or arm, she warns. And if your brain stem is damaged, you could die or suffer brain death.

What to do: Don't play. If you're pressured to join in, leave. The stakes are too high.

3. Someone passes you a joint.

"It's totally natural," people might tell you at a party. But natural does not mean harmless.

Studies show that smoking marijuana has the same effect on your ability to drive as being drunk -- and that it's addictive.

The weed people might have smoked decades ago wasn't as strong as what's being grown today. "And it's [sometimes] being laced with LSD, cocaine, and heroin, so you don't really ever know what you're getting," Nash says.

What to do: Decline. If you feel that "No" is not enough, you can say it makes you sick, sleepy, or that it doesn't do anything for you. Anyone who pressures you is out of line.

4. Your date or ride home bailed on you.

You absolutely must have a safe ride home, no matter what.

Car accidents are the top cause of death among U.S. teens. And face it: No one ever thinks it's going to happen to them.

What to do:

  • Find someone else you know well enough -- and who's sober -- to drive you. If you can't, call a parent, older sibling, or someone else you know for sure is responsible.
  • Embarrassed about having a parent come get you? Ask them to park a few blocks away from the party and walk to your car with a friend.
  • If you can't reach someone you know, call a cab, says Nash.

Always keep a $20 bill for emergency cab fare in a pocket or your shoe (that way, you won't lose it.) Store a taxi company's phone number in your cell phone. If you don't have cash on hand, you can always get the cab fare when you get home.

5. A guy is getting sexually aggressive with you.

First, tell him to back off. "Leave me alone," usually works, Nash says. Tell him "No."

If he's still being pushy, stick with your friends, and tell someone you know. Better yet, find a guy friend who can stand with you. If you're really feeling scared, just leave, Nash says.

Don't be left alone with the guy who's bothering you. If that happens, be sure to tell a friend. Take someone with you if you have to go to the bathroom or to the car.

If you think you were sexually assaulted, call 911 and go to an ER immediately. Don't be afraid to do this, even if you weren't sober at the time. It is not your fault, and no one is going to judge you. Don't shower, change clothes, brush your teeth, or use the toilet if you can avoid it, because you could lose valuable evidence of any crime that was committed against you.

6. Your parents said to call no matter what, but you’re scared they’ll flip out.

You may cringe first, but you need to prep your parents before you head to a party. So:

  • Be up-front. Tell them where you're going.
  • Enlist their help. Say, "If alcohol is involved and I get into a sticky situation, I want to be able to call you without you freaking out or lecturing me."
  • Make a deal. Strike a compromise that you won't discuss the issue that night, but you will the following morning.
  • Backup plan. If you don't have the kind of relationship with your folks where you can have such a discussion, find another responsible adult to be your go-to person: a friend's parent, an older sibling, or a neighbor.

When in doubt, never hesitate to call or go to the ER if you or a friend is in danger. "I'm not going to turn you in to the police just because you're high or drunk. That's not my job," Gillespie says.

7. Your friends are going to a rave.

Often held at secret locations like warehouses and abandoned buildings, raves usually revolve around the club drug ecstasy, also called MDMA.

This addictive stimulant is a dangerous drug. The mixture of ecstasy and nonstop dancing for long periods of time can lead to overheating, excessive sweating, cramped muscles, blurred vision, nausea, anxiety, and potentially deadly dehydration because it can mess with your body's ability to control its temperature.

The drug can also lower the sensation of pain and make you think you're invincible. Gillespie says she's seen ER patients under the influence get massive tattoos they later regretted, and try to jump out of windows, convinced they will be fine.

What to do: Short of avoiding raves altogether, just go to dance, but don't drink or take drugs. And follow basic safety rules: Stay with your group of friends, have a safe way to get home, and make sure someone knows where you are.

Show Sources


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National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA Notes, October 2007.

Darria Gillespie, MD, MBA, spokeswoman, American College of Emergency Physicians; department of emergency medicine, Yale University.

Amee Nash, LPC, manager of chemical dependency services, Green Oaks Hospital, Dallas, Texas; adolescent drug abuse counselor.

Ryan Stanton, MD, spokesman, American College of Emergency Physicians; medical director of emergency medicine, University of Kentucky Good Samaritan Hospital; assistant professor of emergency medicine, University of Kentucky Department of Emergency Medicine Residency Program.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

American Council on Drug Education: “Basic Facts About Drugs: Marijuana.”

CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: “Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1999-2007.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “High School and Youth Trends.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “MDMA (Ecstasy).”

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