Following proper safety and security measures is even more important when drugs and alcohol are involved. Before you go, research the local laws related to alcohol and drugs in your host country. You should also research the local cultural norms to understand how the local community interacts with alcohol and drugs, if at all. It's important to remember you are responsible for your behavior and its consequences when you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Maintain your limitFor some, going abroad will be the first time you are able to legally drink. Excessive drinking can be dangerous to your health and leave you more vulnerable to crime or assault. Even if you are in a culture where excessive drinking is common, only participate to the level where you feel safe and comfortable. Keep in mind that alcohol content may also be stronger in many countries, or you may be offered homebrewed or unlabeled alcohol of unknown toxicity. Maintain your limits & boundaries.
It is important to know your limits - but also understand drinking in a new environment can lower your limits. Research shows drinking the same amount in a new context will inhibit you more than normal. This is called tolerance fail. Your tolerance is disrupted by being in a new environment. Tolerance fail can rapidly impair your judgment and lead to undesirable outcomes.
Common safety practices
Know where your drink is coming from. Don’t drink anything you did not open yourself or that you did not see being poured. Never leave your drink unattended.
If you plan to go out, let someone know when you expect to return. Be sure to communicate any changes to your plan.
When you are out with friends, look out for each other. Everyone’s judgment is impaired while under the influence. If you notice a friend starting to behave in concerning ways, intervene to prevent the situation from escalating into something potentially dangerous.
Make sure you have a plan for everyone to get home that does not include anyone walking home alone. Don’t leave anyone behind and don’t leave it up to people you just met at the event, bar or party to help you or a friend get home.
Most reported incidents abroad happen when alcohol is involved. During these times, it’s crucial to exercise sound judgment and practice the safety measures outlined above.
Follow local drug and alcohol lawsWhen traveling overseas, it is important to obey the laws and regulations of the country you are visiting, especially those pertaining to drug and alcohol use. Every year, many U.S. American travelers are arrested abroad on drug charges or because of their behavior under the influence. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed. Many countries have stringent drug laws with mandatory jail sentences if convicted of possessing even small amounts of illegal substances. It is your responsibility to know the drug laws in a foreign country before you go because "I didn't know it was illegal" will not get you out of jail.
Be aware that a Colorado medical marijuana card is not valid outside of Colorado. Additionally, laws in the State of Colorado, including the legalization of marijuana, do not apply anywhere outside of the State, including abroad. In many countries, marijuana laws are strictly enforced and can carry serious consequences.
The U.S. State Department provides a detailed warning about illegal drugs on its Student Travel webpage:
Don't accept packages from anyone. Some U.S.-Americans think it's a good idea to take advantage of an offer for an all-expenses paid vacation abroad in exchange for carrying a small package in their luggage. If you are caught, ignorance is no excuse. If the package contains illegal drugs or substances, the fact that you didn't know will not reduce the charges. You could miss your flight, coursework, or several years of your life during a stay behind bars.
Don't import, purchase, use, or have drugs in your possession. Even if you have a doctor’s written prescription for medical marijuana in the U.S., it is illegal to travel with any amount of marijuana or marijuana-containing products. Drug charges can carry severe consequences, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried, physical abuse, and sentences ranging from fines and jail time to years of hard labor. Some crimes even carry the penalty of death. Contraband or paraphernalia associated with illegal drug use can also get you in trouble.