Third level students like to drink now and again. There is no surprise in that. However, the university experience and life on campus have become synonymous with daily binge drinking and it seems to be a problem that could easily swing out of control.
Irish people aged 18 to 24 had the highest rates of binge drinking in the EU, according to the CSO in 2014 and not much has changed six years later. The data shows more than a quarter of men and more than 15 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 in Ireland engaged in binge drinking at least once a week.
Binge drinking is easily defined as six or more standard drinks in one session, equivalent to three pints of beer or six pub measures of spirits. However, despite these alarming statistics many university students typically do not classify their drinking as problematic, and why would they? They see their drinking patterns as normative for university life. It’s the first steps to a sense of independence and freedom. You control your own life.
So, where do we draw the line between the typical college experience, which involves drinking and having a good time to the road that may lead to a dangerous path of alcohol abuse and addiction?
There is no surprise that the most immediate risks of binge drinking include injury, assault and arrest. These are experienced by many students and present a growing problem for Irish universities. On a long-term effect, binge drinking is much worse but is only seen as a problem in later years with the increasing damage done to your organs, a high level of depression, high blood pressure, stroke, relationships in turmoil and cancer of the throat, mouth and other areas of the body.
The action of promoting drinking in an institute of learning makes it clear as to why students begin to drink excessively amongst themselves. You can go down with friends to the college pub for a cheap drink at 6pm or walk to the nearest off-license where you will buy and stack up on a rather large amount of alcohol for pre-drinks for the coming weeks.
However, a major issue isn’t the fact that all this is easily accessible, it’s the fact that the culture is easily accepted. You can drink in the student pub any time of day with little or no judgment. “He’s a college student, it’s what they do!” However, there is also a global pressure seen in marketing techniques that ties together the idea of fun with drinking, and I think almost every student has been a part of that at some stage. Certain social media accounts often glorify dangerous situations brought on by intoxication. Yet, they tend to use captions that honour and laugh about it while posing questions asking who else can relate to being in these unusual situations.
While it is impossible to separate the life of a student from the presence of drink, many universities are taking action to try and diminish this relationship with physical student activities, introducing dry events, and sober spaces for students to go.
The main lesson to take is to find your balance on this issue, know when enough is enough, budget yourself and don’t feel that you’re missing out by not drinking. There are ups and downs to both arguments, there is the social, relaxing and fun side to drinking but also be aware of the dark elements that it can possess and know how to control it or it can torment you for years to come. The negative effects of alcohol will always outweigh the positives.
By Conor Breslin
Image: Sonja Tutty