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Flying the nest – how to stay safe if you’re leaving home for the first time

If you’re about to start University or college or you’re moving out of your home to start a new job or apprenticeship, you may well be feeling excited but also a little apprehensive. And, if you’re moving to a completely new town or city, then this will bring a whole host of changes and challenges to your life. Meeting new people and navigating a new place can feel quite daunting, especially if this is your first time living away from family and friends. But fear not as Frank is here to set you on the right path as you take the leap into a whole new world.

Stay fresh during Freshers

As a first timer at Uni, you’ll find it pretty much impossible to avoid the Freshers label. You are new to the University as much as you are to a town or city, and it’s just a phase to get through. Bombarded by promises of cheap drinks and free entry to events, this is a time to enjoy yourself but also to be aware that wherever you are, the general rules of taking care will follow, wherever you find yourself. Make sure you get to know your local area and how to get home after a night out. Stick with friends and always let them know if you’re heading home early and that you’ve arrived safely.

Know your limits

It’s good to have some idea about what the risks from drinking alcohol might be. The low risk drinking guidelines recommend that, to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days rather than packing it all into one night.

If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions a week (more than 6 units for women or 8 units for men on a single occasion), you increase your risk of long-term illness and of accidents and injuring yourself. 

If you're heading out for the night and you plan to drink, there are a couple of simple things that you can do to stay in control and ensure you have a great time.

Have a meal before you go out and grab some snacks between drinks. This helps to slow down the absorption of alcohol, helping you stay in control

Sip a glass of water between drinks to stay hydrated and slow down your alcohol consumption over the course of the night – or even better, switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks

If you are heading round to a friend’s for pre-drinks or pre’s, try and avoid drinking too much too quickly as this can really have an impact later on in the evening. You may even find that your night ends early if you’re not permitted entrance to a club for being too drunk.

Never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from someone you don’t know - there could be a chance that it’s been spiked. Spiking someone’s drink is a serious crime and should be reported immediately. Read our Spiking - Top Tips to stay safe article to find out more.

Be in the know when it comes to drugs

There are lots of reasons why people take drugs and if you’re at Uni or college, you may find that people are using recreational drugs like MDMA, ketamine or cocaine. If you’ve not taken drugs before then there’s no reason to start, but if you are thinking of trying something then make sure you understand the risks.

You might find some people are taking ‘Study drugs’ or ‘Smart drugs’. These are usually prescription drugs that are misused by people to improve concentration and enhance performance. These drugs are used to treat conditions like ADHD or narcolepsy so unless you’re prescribed these drugs by a doctor, you shouldn’t take them to keep you awake to study.

That last minute ‘pulling an all nighter’ really isn’t worth it when there's no evidence to say that these substances enhance performance. ‘Study’ or ‘Smart’ drugs can also have varying side effects including skin reactions, insomnia, psychiatric disorders and, if you’re on hormonal contraceptives, they may not be as effective.

It’s important to know that the sale and use of these drugs without a prescription is illegal in the UK in the same way as any other drug.

The law

It is illegal to consume, produce, supply or possess most recreational drugs and psychoactive substances in the UK. If you’re an international student or moved to the UK from another country for work, the laws around drugs in the UK may be different to what you’re used to at home. The penalties if you are caught can be significant and may have an impact on your life in the future.

Getting help with drug or alcohol use

Your doctor is a good place to start if you’re looking for support. They can help to refer you to more specialist drug and alcohol services or go to FRANK to get help to find support near you that provides counselling and treatment in England. If you’re not ready to speak to a medical professional or specialist service, you can talk to an advisor at your Student Union or Welfare Officer who can offer you confidential, impartial advice.

If you’re worried about anything to do with drugs or alcohol and want to talk to FRANK in confidence about yourself or about a friend, then you can call the helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0300 123 6600 or you can chat online between 2-6pm every day.

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Help and advice

What to do in an emergency

If you or someone else needs urgent help after taking drugs or drinking, call 999 for an ambulance. Tell the crew everything you know. It could save their life.

What else to do in an emergency