“Binge drinking” is a problem at a lot of universities in the UK. How can you make sure you stay safe and healthy as a student in the UK?
The first year of college is a time of freedom. There are no parents, teachers, or curfews. However, it is also a time of responsibility, and many first-year college students can’t say no to alcohol.
Too many college students drink too much at once, and statistics show that the number of young people who are drunk is going up.
According to the Government Information Centre’s “Statistics on Alcohol: England 2007,” which came out in June 2007, 187,640 adults aged 16 and up were admitted to NHS hospitals in 2005/06 with a primary or secondary diagnosis related to alcohol. From 89,280 in 1995/96, this number has more than doubled.
But things could be about to change. The Sunday Times reported on February 17 that the government is thinking about ways to stop college freshmen from drinking too much, especially during the first week of school.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is looking into whether the Higher Education Funding Council, which gives public money to universities and colleges for teaching and research, could use its power to stop universities from encouraging people to drink too much on their campuses.
Some universities and student groups are already taking steps to change how much of a focus freshers week has on drinking alcohol. The Goldsmiths Students’ Union at the University of London has closed one of its two student bars and turned the space into an art gallery and performance space with no alcohol. It says that it is responding to demand, citing the fact that more and more students are not drinking because of their religion or because they are older and have families.
At Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, a campaign of posters about “Boozy Betty” has made students think more positively about drinking. Boozy Betty is known as the hard-drinking, hard-living poster girl on campus. She shows how drinking too much can lead to weight problems, bad grades, sexually transmitted diseases, and financial problems for students.
Most of the students on campus liked the campaign, and it made them think and act more responsibly when it came to drinking alcohol.
Christine Johnston from Heriot-student Watt’s welfare department said that talks are going on with the National Union of Students, which wants to spread the campaign all over the country. There are also plans for a similar campaign that will target men.
But people have different ideas about how well such a campaign would work. Many students at British universities seem to think that binge drinking is the norm and are happy to take part.
Events like pub golf and bar crawls are often set up as a way to introduce people to university societies or to get them started in them. In these kinds of events, students are encouraged to drink different kinds of alcohol, like largers, ciders, spirits, and shots, in set amounts and at set times, and to keep track of how many drinks they’ve had on a scorecard similar to the ones used in golf.
Students at British universities often drink a lot, but international students often have a different view of this. Most universities have some kind of guide for international and exchange students that tells them what to expect and how to get ready for the culture shock of coming to the UK.
Almost all guides have a section on British culture, especially how students feel about drinking and university life. They usually tell students that going to the pub is a big part of British culture, even if they don’t drink alcohol.
The Department of Health says that students who drink alcohol should do so in a responsible way. Most of the time, drinking in moderation doesn’t cause any problems. However, drinking too much can be bad for you. It says that men shouldn’t drink more than 3–4 units of alcohol per day, while women shouldn’t drink more than 2–3 units per day.
Tips for safe drinking
- Pace yourself and drink water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks.
- Eat before you start drinking
- Don’t drink alone; drink with other people.
- Only drink once a week, and don’t drink so much that you pass out.
- Don’t drink from strangers and never leave your drink unattended.
- Watch out for your friends, and make sure they’re doing the same for you.
- Before you go out, make sure you have a safe way to get home after a night of drinking. This could be a designated driver or a list of licensed taxi numbers.