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Problems with Drinking - College drinking games can be the start of lifelong addiction

Published 30/10/2008

For many new students at UK colleges and universities, freshers' week is a time to have fun, make friends and, in many cases, to drink to excess. In fact, it's safe to say that binge drinking is viewed as 'the norm' at British universities and a large proportion of the undergraduate population appear to be willing participants in the drinking games that are organised as an introduction to college life.

The stakes may be higher than they think. The parents of a Warwick University student, who died in 2006 after drinking half a litre of vodka in 20 minutes for a bet, recently called for urgent action over the 'drinking game' culture in our universities. Back in February, Exeter University announced a ban on all student society initiation ceremonies after a first-year student drank himself to death at the start of the 2006/2007 academic year.

The long-term risks are equally grave, says Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Group. "What many students don't realise is that they may develop bad habits early on that will stay with them or the rest of their student days and into their subsequent careers. This kind of drinking pattern can quickly spiral out of control and lead to alcohol addiction," she warns.Students should not be fooled into thinking that, as long as they're careful about drinking too much during the week, a 'session' on a Friday or Saturday night does not constitute a problem. In fact, she says, that kind of drinking can carry more risks, because binge drinkers drink more over a shorter period of time and inflict more long-term physical damage."Alcoholism is a progressive illness - over time, the binges will become closer together. If you tell yourself that you are alright because your drinking only goes out of control every few weeks, you are already in denial," she warns. There are other danger signs, too. These include:

  • Blackouts - periods of time you cannot account for when drunk
  • Regularly missing lectures or other commitments due to a hangover or the need to drink instead
  • Daytime drinking in the week - worse still if you do this alone
  • Craving alcohol
  • Drinking in the morning to control a hang-over or the shakes
  • Injuring yourself repeatedly when drunk
  • Having attempted to cut back, finding it impossible
  • Making excuses (for example, I only drink lager, I know someone who drinks a lot more than me, all students drink a lot)
  • Getting annoyed or defensive if someone mentions the amount you drink 

Student life has much more to offer than hangovers, muddled memories and entirely avoidable accidents and no-one should miss out the opportunities to grow and learn that are open to them during this important period of their lives. If you, or someone you care about, is struggling with student drinking, confidential help and advice is available from Linwood Group.

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