Don’t drink too much

Binge drinking has become a big part of student life, but what are the adverse side effects of heavy alcohol consumption?

Many parts of student life are strongly connected with alcohol and the Student Union bar. Some Student Unions have societies devoted to drinking (for example the University of Bath Student Union Wine Society) and many sports clubs at university or college are better known for their drinking sessions than sporting achievements.

However, drinking is not always a fun social experience. Research by Alcohol Concern, an organisation that advises on and researches into alcohol abuse, found that students are more likely than the rest of the population to be drinking above recommended levels – and suffering the consequences.

The recommended levels concerning how much alcohol it is safe to drink differ for men and women. For men the recommended weekly limit is 21 units and for women 14 units. A unit is equivalent to half a pint of lager or a glass of wine or one measure of spirits. The Alcohol Concern survey found that 54 per cent of male students and 42 per cent of female students drink over these recommended levels. Of the male students surveyed 16 per cent admitted to drinking more than 50 units a week, more than twice the recommended levels and certainly not good for their health.

For the vast majority, light social drinking is enjoyable and relaxing‚ but long-term drinking above recommended levels can seriously damage the throat, liver, pancreas, reproductive organs and stomach.

Not to mention the brain which, believe it or not, is far more beneficial to you than getting inebriated!

Drinking can be a pleasurable experience, it’s just a case of taking it easy and enjoying everything in moderation. When you first leave home and there’s no one there to give you guidance (or pick you up from the pub floor) it’s easy to get carried away. There are many common myths and assumptions about drinking alcohol, but how much do you actually know?

1) Surely the worst that can happen is a bad head the next day?

Unfortunately, you can do a lot more damage to yourself than a hangover. If you binge drink (consume large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time) you put yourself at risk of alcohol poisoning which will at the very least make you vomit, and could even lead to a coma or death. Alcohol depresses your nervous system and can fatally damage the heart, even in fit, healthy, young, people.

2) Being drunk is always a good laugh.

Okay, being drunk can be fabulous and fun but losing your grip on reality can be an embarrassment and make you put yourself in dangerous situations. A large proportion of pedestrians involved in road accidents are under the influence of alcohol and many of the head injuries seen at hospital casualty departments on a Friday night are related to drinking. Being drunk slows down your reflexes and impairs your judgement.

3) Boys can drink more than girls.

This is generally true. If a girl and boy who weighed the same amount drank the same quantity of alcohol the girl would get more drunk. This is because girls have more fat and less water in their bodies than boys, therefore the alcohol is more concentrated in the female body. Body weight and individual tolerance levels also effect how drunk you get and how quickly this happens. Your individual tolerance levels will rise if you become a regular drinker.

4) Alcohol makes you loosen up.

Losing your inhibitions in the first week of college could lead to three years of pure humiliation every time you enter the union bar. Alcohol is a natural depressant so, far from loosening you up, drinking can make you even more miserable or stressed than you were to start with.

5) Mixing drinks gets you drunk much faster.

There’s no way of telling how different drinks will react in your stomach but it is widely thought that mixing your drinks makes you sick. It is true, however, that spirits (especially when drunk with a fizzy mixer) are absorbed into the bloodstream faster than beer and wine and therefore make you tipsy faster. The fastest way to get drunk is by boozing on an empty stomach but this is not to be advised unless you like being sick! Myths about “spirits then beer, never fear” are not true – you will still get a hangover and be ill!

6) There are plenty of hangover cures.

And none of them work! Well, there is no one perfect cure (hair of the dog just delays the inevitable) but there are things you can do to ease your suffering. It’s a good idea to drink a couple of pints of water before bed after a heavy night out, as dehydration makes the hangover worse. Having something to eat before going out drinking can help, as you are more likely to be ill after drinking on an empty stomach. The best thing to do is take a paracetamol and learn from your experience.

7) OK, it’s bad. But not THAT bad.

Well, yes it can be if you don’t take a reality check. Excessive drinking will make you fat and unattractive to start with. But alcohol is also a factor in 65 per cent of suicides (remember, it’s a depressant) and just don’t even think about drinking and driving – once you’ve drunk enough to put you over the limit (about one pint of beer) you won’t pass a breathalyser for 24 hours. If you do try to drink and drive you’ll either get arrested or kill yourself or someone else.

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