Do you really know what binge drinking is?

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For first year students it can simultaneously be the most exciting and most nerve-wracking week of your life. For continuing students it’s a chance to relive first year memories and introduce freshers to your college chant. But it’s primarily known as the week where we take on board copious amounts of alcohol, the likes of which our bodies will hopefully never see again (…until next year).

Now, I’m not going to lecture you about drinking alcohol and how abstaining is much better for you. No doubt freshers are looking to take the edge off their first week nerves and to join in with their new flatmates, and alcohol can be a good way to do this if used moderately. For anyone familiar with the film Just Like Heaven, the character Jay argues that “God gave us alcohol as a social lubricant”, and while none of us are able to say this with certainty, his heart may be in the right place. So I thought, instead of being lectured by a teetotaller like myself, I’d try to give you a bit of a factual eye-opener when it comes to binge drinking.

We’re all familiar with those photographs of fellow young people who have completely lost control of themselves due to drinking too much too quickly. The media undoubtedly love to dig out such photographs for any piece remotely related to alcohol and young people. This is what constitutes binge drinking for the majority of us – drinking so much alcohol to the point where you nearly experience blood poisoning. It’s a state that most of us would say we’d never find ourselves in. But in actual fact, what is commonly known as “binge drinking” starts off as something far more familiar.

Binge drinking, as defined by the NHS, constitutes the “drinking to get drunk” attitude in addition to drinking a lot in a short space of time. With the freshers’ week focus being enjoying yourself, which quickly becomes synonymous with drinking to get drunk, how many of us are really binge drinkers?

There is also uncertainty with what amounts to drinking too much too quickly. Our bodies can only process one unit of alcohol per hour, and the NHS recommends that men only drink three to four units per day and women two to three units. When you consider that one unit equates to a 175ml glass of wine, it actually doesn’t take much at all to binge drink. For women, if you drink more than two large glasses of wine fairly quickly your body simply won’t be able to process it; for men, the equivalent is about three pints of strong beer.

It might be worth considering how much your body takes on board during an average night out. If it’s more than the above, binge drinking could be taking its toll on your body. Needless to say, the effect of binge drinking on our health is disastrous. Binge drinking can affect your mood, your memory and even cause you severe liver problems.

This communal threat of bodily damage is certainly a sobering thought. Amidst all the media propaganda and general opinion concerning binge drinking, we’ve lost sight of judging our own drinking habits. However, the best advice to take during this nail-biting week is summed up nicely in the recent nationwide campaign: Easy Tiger. “Take things easy. You’ll soon feel better for it”.

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