Overheard On Campus: Sometimes people offer me drugs at parties. I feel uncomfortable just saying no. How should I respond?

Contributed by Daniel Gittins, M.A. & Rebecca Smith, M.A., L.C.P.C., C.S.A.T.
Introduction by Tyler Achilles

Yikes! I definitely wouldn’t want to be in this kid’s position. Undoubtedly, however, many college students find themselves faced with this dilemma, and it’s not an easy one to navigate. It should be just as easy as saying no, but sometimes it’s not. Let’s see if our experts can give this student some guidance on the issue.

A girl is offered a joint (marijuana)

Daniel Gittins, coordinator of alcohol and drug programs at Duquesne University, says …

Do whatever it takes to be strong and to stick to your convictions and personal expectations. There are a variety of approaches you can take when responding to these people. Just saying no is the most direct way to deal with this, but it can clearly be difficult to take that one word approach. No one wants to look “lame” in front of other people; and, unfortunately, our culture leaves people feeling that if we choose not to drink, or take drugs, or engage in certain behaviors, then we are somehow not fun or too uptight. Remember that it’s absolutely fine, and encouraged, to stick to your principles and decline any activity that makes you  feel uncomfortable.

You could also try some humorous or fictional story approaches:
•    “No thanks. Last time I tried that I ended up cliff diving, and I’m not having that again.”
•    “Last time I did that I was in the Bahamas. I got into a fight and had to spend the night in a foreign jail. Not fun.”
•    “I really lose control when I do that, and I can’t get crazy tonight because I have an exam tomorrow.”

The list goes on and on … whatever you say, be creative and be strong. You’re worthy; even if, and perhaps especially if, you decline to participate in risky behaviors that could negatively influence your safety and success. In most circumstances, we can choose what we want and don’t want to do; it’s your power, use it!

Rebecca Smith, counselor at Aurora University, says …

Some people are uncomfortable because they feel like they’re rejecting the person offering the drugs. If you are a people pleaser it can be hard to say no, in general, to anyone. In this case, it’s best to have a reason ready to give the person offering. A valid reason to use is saying you have a big test or paper coming up and you need to be able to focus. You can also say you, or someone you know, had a bad reaction to that drug in the past and you don’t want to risk it.

Other people are uncomfortable because they feel they won’t fit in. Go to the party with friends who also don’t do drugs. That way you can say no as a group and still feel like you fit in. It’s easier to say no when there are others making the same choice. If you only have friends who do drugs, try to find a different group of people to hang out with who feel the same way you do. You can then attend parties where drugs may not be offered, and you won’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable at all.

2 thoughts on “Overheard On Campus: Sometimes people offer me drugs at parties. I feel uncomfortable just saying no. How should I respond?

  1. The answer is to get more comfortable saying “no.” If you don’t learn to do this now, it won’t get any easier. Saying “no” or “no thanks” for those who want to be polite – without excuses or apologizes or guilt or embarassment is something any assertive adult should know how to do. Practice until you feel more comfortable and learn to value your own authenticity over fitting in.

  2. I agree with the first comment. Getting used to saying “no,” especially when you’re in a new place and trying to meet people, can be tough. Never feel ashamed of saying no. Most people, especially out of high school, won’t really think much of it or judge you for doing so.

    In most cases when someone asks you for a drink (or in this case drugs) at a party they’re just doing it to be friendly and polite and they don’t care if you accept or reject their offer. But you can’t forget that there’s always a risk that someone slipped something in that drink or those pills they’re trying to give you aren’t what they say they are – so use common sense and be safe!

    And remember – if they hassle you after you say no, you’re probably just better off getting out of the situation by walking away. No sense in staying somewhere where people are making you feel uncomfortable.

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