drunk students
Intoxicated students can sleep off the dangers in the drunk tanks. Source: Shutterstock.com

Most students have been there at one point or another. Maybe it was one too many beers at the student union, or could it have been the free shots in the club? Somehow or another, you got yourself too drunk.

Understanding that students will be students, many universities in Canada have adopted ‘drunk tanks’ in order to ensure intoxicated students are safe. The campus alcohol recovery rooms (CARR) or drunk tanks allow students to sober up under a kind, watchful eye.

The University of Guelph (UoG) is one of many institutions to bring in CARRs. Its on-campus space opened last year and contains six beds and buckets (just in case).

Drunk students can wander in, sign up for a cot, curl up and go to sleep.

Volunteers check up on them roughly every half hour to ensure all drunken snoozers are well. If there are signs a student may need medical attention, the volunteers will call medical staff to the site.

At UoG alone, 51 students checked into the drunk tank last semester. Two of these 51 were admitted to hospital after volunteers became concerned. The remaining 49 were able to sleep off their intoxication (and resulting hangover) in peace, confident in the knowledge they were safe.

While arguably students should be taught to be wary of excessive alcohol consumption, sometimes lessons are learnt the hard way.

And when those lessons are learnt by difficult means students can find themselves in danger.

The drunk tanks aim to provide students with safety when they feel uneasy because of the amount of alcohol they consumed.

It is no secret many students in Canada (and all over the world) binge drink. The National College Health Association found that over a third of nearly 45,000 students surveyed admitted to drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a single sitting on at least one occasion in the previous couple of weeks.


It is imperative students who have consumed too much alcohol “are not going to be just in their rooms by themselves or in their rooms with somebody else who may have overconsumed,” Irene Thompson, the director of student housing at UoG, told CTV News.

Queen’s University (QU) was believed to be one of the first to set up a CARR in Canada. Named the Campus Observation Room (COR), QU’s services are open most weekend evenings, during freshers week, and on common heavy drinking nights such as St Patrick’s Day.

The University of Calgary (UoC) has its own version of QU and UoG’s CARRs. UoC named its service ‘the post-alcohol support space’ (PASS). Similarly, the PASS is supported by volunteers but at UoC a member of registered medical staff is also on site at all times.

Kyle Guild, who falls into both of these categories as a registered paramedic and student volunteer, claimed no judgement is ever passed on the students in the recovery area.

“There’s not that sense of authority so I think interactions can be more relaxed,” he said speaking to U Today. “Students seem to trust us.”

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