How To Get Drunk When You’re Broke (The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly)
As a female, blacking out is one of the scariest things that can happen. It’s only happened to me once (in my defense, I was in New Orleans during Mardi Gras,) and waking up in a strange place not knowing how I got there bothered me to the point that it dampened my ability to enjoy the rest of my trip. This is all despite the fact that I was with my brother and several close friends, all homosexual males. I was literally in the safest possible situation I could have been during a blackout, and they made sure I made it to bed safe, but the fact that I can’t remember my participation in that still haunts me to this day.
It was my first Mardi Gras experience, and I’d scrimped every penny I had to get there. My brother and I even spent two days on a greyhound bus to get down south (I do not recommend this.) From the time the bus dropped us off in Jackson, Mississippi at 9am until well after I woke up the next morning, I had only eaten one bowl of gumbo. I decided that my budget for the day would be better spent on alcohol than on food.
This was a grave mistake, and it wasn’t only because the food in New Orleans makes it a travel destination in and of itself. I was trying to get as drunk as I could for as cheap as I could, but I was also participating in a very dangerous behavior that could have had much more severe consequences than an uncomfortable blackout.
We’ve all been there: the occasion calls for partying, but your wallet isn’t down. If you’ve gotta party but you don’t have the dough to do so like a rockstar, there are several ways to go about it that can be classified as varying degrees of good, bad, and ugly. Let’s take a look at them… in reverse order.
While taking a few pulls off a joint before you hit the bars isn’t going to cause any problems if that’s your bag, there are definitely some dangerous, and even deadly, drink-and-drug combinations.
Most of us (not Whitney Houston, sadly) are smart enough to know that mixing alcohol with prescription medications is extremely risky. Mixing alcohol with prescription meds will get you extra smashed, but it’s a dangerous game that shouldn’t be played. Alcohol and uppers can result in heart problems, while alcohol and downers can lead to breathing issues, both of which can make you dead. Just don’t do it. Bad, bad news, folks.
Most run on the assumption that over-the-counter meds are pretty safe, and couldn’t possibly be deadly. There are a couple that are being abused on their own, and they become even more detrimental to your health when mixed with alcohol. Apparently, teens these days are using benadryl to get high, and severe alcoholics have been known to mix the two for a cheaper drunken state. Maybe it’s occurred to some of us to pop a benadryl or two before going out drinking to bump up the effect, but the risks aren’t worth the benefit. Both substances exacerbate the other’s side effects, and the combination can lead to hallucinations, seizures, unconsciousness, and in severe cases, death.
Dextromethorphan is another OTC drug that’s been commonly abused since I was a teen (yes, I tried Robo-frying, and no, I don’t recommend it.) Dextromethorphan, or DXM for short, is a strong cough suppressant that is in many common cough, cold, and flu medications. It works by inhibiting the area of the brain that causes coughs, and when taken in extremely high doses, it’s high is similar to ketamine or PCP. Alcoholics have also been known to mix these two for heightened effects, but that can lead to hypertension, severe anxiety or paranoia, delusional thoughts, and even a coma. If you’re going to insist on robo-frying, I suppose go ahead, but don’t be an idiot and mix it with alcohol.
It’s been purported that “drunkorexia” is one the newest trends sweeping college campuses, with a whopping 80% of students involved in a recent survey reporting behaviors that qualify as “drunkorexic.” More and more students are being conscious of what they put in their bodies, but not in the way that’s typically encouraged. They are either cutting back on calories or increasing exercise to the extreme before or after drinking, and even engaging in dangerous purging behaviors that are commonly associated with bulimia.
This recent spike has been attributed mostly to body consciousness and an effort of “image-obsessed millennials” to control the calories they consume while still being able to have fun. However, Gen-Yers like myself are more familiar with this as a tactic to get drunker, quicker, cheaper. I’m not going to lie, there were plenty of occasions in my youth where I skipped dinner because I wanted the drinks I was planning to hit me hard and fast. What can I say? I was a poor college student too, and alcohol may or may not have once been more of a self-medicating crutch than a way to unwind and socialize with friends.
The concept seems pretty simple: the less you eat, the less you have to drink. If you’re looking to save money, you double your efforts by not paying for that extra meal or two while also buying fewer drinks. But drunkorexia comes with serious health risks: an increased risk of alcohol poisoning, blacking out, engaging in violent or dangerous behaviors, suffering alcohol-related brain damage, and becoming an alcoholic or falling into a full-fledged eating disorder. Introducing alcohol to a malnourished or starving body also causes cognitive issues, both short and long-term.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like my brain. I think it works pretty well (most of the time…) and I’d like it to continue thinking and communicating with the world in the way it always has. Brain damage and cognitive disruption are not worth the few bones you’d save drinking less, and neither is the risk of alcohol poisoning or the potential to fall into a serious addiction or disorder.
I can add another risk to the docket from personal experience: drinking on a completely empty stomach makes it impossible to control your buzz. It’s too easy too get too drunk, and no one wants to be that asshole that their friends have to take care of, at least not on a regular basis. This is the kind of thing that can destroy important relationships; even if you’re not a full-fledged alcoholic, behaving like one will chase people away real quick. The reason I stopped engaging in this behaviour is because I was sick of burdening my friends with my inability to control my drinking. After learning about all the dangers, I wish I’d done it sooner.
There is some good news, folks. You can still get drunk on the cheap, without risking (too much of) your health. Here are a few of the most sane (adult?) strategies:
- Pre-game: if you’re headed out for a night on the town and it’s got to be at that expensive joint across town because that’s where your buddy wants to spend their birthday/anniversary/insert-special-occasion-that-justifies-venue-entitlement here, it’s time to get your pre-game on. Head to your local grocer and grab an inexpensive sixer, a high alcohol content tall boy, or a cheap bottle of decent wine, and chug away. The point of pre-gaming is not to get pre-drunk. You’re aiming more for a nice buzz that will last throughout your venture to aforementioned expensive joint and still be warm and toasty in your stomach while you nurse your first drink.
- Do your research: if you have a little bit of time on your hands and you don’t mind a little bit of bar hopping, you can find the best deals at the best times of day and design your own broke-ass bar crawl. Some places have excellent happy hour specials, and their hours may differ, allowing you to hit several in the course of a night. Keep an eye out for daily specials and tastings, and avoid bars that have cover fees. Sometimes local festivals, markets, or art shows will feature several vendors offering tastings, and if you pair that with bar specials in between, you can have a great time trying a variety of different drinks without breaking the bank. If you’re the party-crashing type, you might even be able to get drunk for free.
- Get the most bang for your buck: sometimes you can save money by being cognizant of what you’re drinking and what’s in it. First off, it helps to know the alcohol content of your favorite liquor. Most flavored liquors, especially cordials, are much lower in alcohol content than their straight counterparts. If you’re a beer drinker, keep your eye out for specials on pitchers. A typical pitcher of beer contains about five 12 ounce cans, and you can often get an entire pitcher for the same price as one shot of liquor.
- Mind your mixers: for the most part, taking straight shots is the best way to get drunk quick and cheap, but that’s not always the ideal solution when you’re trying to make a few bucks last all night. But, did you know that tonic water is a slight muscle relaxer? It contains quinine, which is a medicine traditionally used to treat malaria that also has muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ordering a vodka or gin and tonic can leave you feeling more relaxed than any other mixer, and it’s generally safe for most.
- Become a regular: this isn’t everyone’s style, but if you find a decent dive that you like, it couldn’t hurt to patronize it repeatedly. I didn’t really discover this trick until my late twenties, when I realized that belting out karaoke over a few drinks was the best way for me to release my inhibitions and unwind after a tedious work week. I found a stellar karaoke joint and kept coming back the same night every week, and before I knew it, the bartenders and servers were on my side. They pour my drinks heavy, and I often get a bill that’s missing one, if not more, of the drinks I actually ordered. Of course, the key to getting preferential treatment isn’t just persistent attendance: you’ve got to treat them right, too. Don’t be a cheap-ass: no matter how broke you are, always tip well, and don’t be a dick. There’s just no need to be a dick.
I suppose there are probably more tricks (the safe kind) that I didn’t think of, so if you’ve got ‘em, help a fellow broke-ass out and put ‘em in the comments. And as always, have fun and be safe you broke, beautiful bastards!