Staying safe

Five tips on how to stay alcohol aware this weekend:

Pace yourself: The faster you down those shots, the harder they'll hit. Take breaks in between drinks to keep from overdoing it.

Know your limits: Don't party like a rock star if this is your first party. Maintain personal boundaries instead of mimicking others who may have a higher tolerance than you.

Forget pregaming: Skip the pre-party party. If you are already drinking before you hit the bars, your sense of how drunk you are will be skewed all night.

Hydrate: Drink lots of water. Take some occasional beer breaks and shoot some water to rehydrate.

Be a good Samaritan: Alcohol increases the risk of criminal activity. Keep an eye out and help get someone home safe when you can.

Source: Stephen Bentley, Wardenburg Health Center

Students at the University of Colorado are preparing for a crazy Halloween weekend filled with costumes, parties and booze.

But new research shows that some students won't be able to compete with the rest of their peers when it comes to drinking alcohol, no matter how hard they try.

There are several factors that determine one's tolerance level. But according to a recent study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, those with the CYP2E1 gene variant, about 10 percent to 20 percent of the population, experience heightened effects of alcohol than those without.

Marissa Ehringer, a CU associate professor, conducts similar research on nicotine and alcohol effects and addiction at the university's Institute for Behavioral Genetics. While it is commonly known that genes in the liver help determine alcohol effects, the CYP2E1 is in the brain, she said.

"This means there is another factor which will effect an individual's response to alcohol and is linked to the development of addiction," Ehringer said.

Because those with the gene are likely to feel the effects harder and faster, they're also likely to drink less than those without the gene, Ehringer said. Those who drink less have a smaller risk of developing alcoholism or other alcohol-related problems in the future.

"For those drinking to get drunk, that effect will happen quicker with the gene, so they won't need to drink as much to get there," Ehringer said. "For others, they'll stop when they start to lose control or get sick, drinking less alcohol than their higher tolerance friends."

Besides genetics, a person's sex, body weight, how much they drink and how quickly are also factors in determining blood alcohol content.

CU senior Crystal Hutchinsen, 23, said it makes sense that those with the gene would drink less since most people will stop before they get to that sick feeling.

"I don't drink to get drunk because I don't want to get sick or drunk," Hutchinsen said. "I just want to take a little of the edge off, but I don't want to be miserable."

Students said the gene could make alcohol outings less-expensive and time-consuming since they'd hit their limits quicker and with less alcohol.

But unlike Hutchinsen, there are many undergraduates who will drink past their limits this weekend in hopes of leaving the stress of school behind.

Stephen Bentley, coordinator of substance abuse services at Wardenburg Health Center, said Halloween is a particularly heavy drinking weekend for students.

"Timing wise, it falls right after midterms when classes are picking up the pace," Bentley said. "Plus the normal boundaries of dress (costumes) and social interaction (trick or treating) are being relaxed and creating less inhibition among students."

Bentley said Halloween can be a dangerous time for students because they are more likely to drink or use other substances that they would otherwise avoid in order to destress or just fit in with their peers.

But CU freshmen Colby Colgate and Angelena Adamski said the costumes and uninhibited nature of Halloween allow students to be more socially active on and off campus.

"For freshmen or anyone who feels like they don't fit in yet, all you have to do is put on a costume and you're in," Colgate said.

"It's actually easier to be yourself when you're dressed in a costume," Adamski said. "I think it's a great way to let loose at a party or even at campus events. There's really something for everyone."