There has been a rise in the number of university students developing mental health problems and committing suicide over the last few years. It has been suggested that financial worry is partly responsible for this increase, but there is also good reason to believe that binge drinking is to blame. Tony Blair once warned that binge drinking was becoming a ‘British disease‘; there is now growing evidence of this epidemic in universities around the country.
Drinking Alcohol at University
Going to university often means leaving home and enjoying a bit more freedom. This is a special time in a young person’s life, so it is understandable that they want to let their hair down now and again. The demands of a university course can be high, and socialising with friends is a way to unwind. Alcohol is a social lubricant, but as students drink sensibly, they can enjoy this activity without too many ill effects.
The problem is not so much that so many university students like to drink alcohol, the real concern is that so many of them choose to drink until they become drunk. This type of behaviour is known as binge drinking, and it is the most dangerous pattern of alcohol consumption.
What is Binge Drinking?
It is considered binge drinking when men consume more than eight units of alcohol or when women drink more than six units (one unit is equal to a half-pint of normal-strength beer or a glass of pub measure wine) in one session. Consuming this amount on a regular basis will almost certainly cause damage to mental and physical health eventually. Some of the potential negative consequences of binge drinking include:
- alcohol is a depressant so binge drinking can trigger symptoms of depression
- just a few episodes of binge drinking can lead to fatty liver disease (first stage of alcoholic liver disease)
- alcohol can have a toxic effect on almost every organ in the body
- intoxication can lead to poor decision making
- binge drinking increases the likelihood of committing crimes or becoming the victim of a crime
- those engaging in this behaviour are at higher risk of committing suicide
- this is the pattern of drinking that is most likely to lead to alcoholism
- binge drinking prevents students from doing well at university; it may even mean they need to drop out of their course.
How to Avoid the Alcohol Pitfall at University
The key to avoiding the alcohol pitfall at university is to drink sensibly. It is recommended that men drink less than 21 units of alcohol per week and women less than 14. These units should be spread out over the week – remember that drinking more than eight units (six for women) is binge drinking. It is also important to have at least two days every week of not drinking alcohol. Those unable to stick to this level of consumption could indicate that they have developed a problem and therefore need help to regain control over their drinking or give up completely.
Some of the other tips for drinking safely at university include:
- never drinking on an empty stomach
- never leaving a drink unattended or accepting a drink from strangers – this is to avoid ‘spiked’ drinks
- never drinking to escape the pressure of university life
- it can be a good idea to have a non-alcoholic drink in-between every alcoholic one
- avoiding strong drinks
- avoiding drinking games.
Drinking alcohol can be a fun thing to do while studying at university, but it is important to be cautious around this substance. Consuming alcohol is culturally acceptable in the UK, but this does not take away from the fact that it can be an extremely dangerous drug when abused.