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Welcome Week, winter balls, nights-out, society socials, and Skint Mondays. How many excuses do we have to get absolutely smashed?
Pretty much any English noun can be forced into a thinly veiled euphemism for excessive drinking, the list is as inexhaustive as it is entertaining to write: Glastonburyed, T-in-the-Parked, Parklifed – and that’s just the festivals. Nevertheless, I think the British commitment to inventively skirting what is a considerable health risk is honestly quite concerning.
By our own admission, we think drinking and getting drunk is part of university culture itself (NUS, 2016). I’m guilty myself, a serial offender, but recent experiences has made me reflect on whether we can really justify such a culture.
Survey after survey find high rates of dangerous drinking across universities; 41% identified with hazardous drinkers, 11% as harmful drinkers, and a further 10% as alcohol dependent. With 20% students likely to be diagnosable with alcohol use disorder (Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2011), degree level drinking is going nowhere soon. All too many of us will be graduating with a joint Bachelors in Alcoholism (Hons), Jager and 3-4-5 VKs.
Of course, we can always try to have some guidelines for a heavy night of drinking. The NHS has its guidelines: 8 units for men, 6 for women. A clinical assessment of drinking that reflects what will keep you out of A&E rather than the reality we find ourselves in where you practically hit or exceed that limit with 6 VKs and a shot – with many more exceeding that limit in multiples on a ‘good night out’.
We could have our own limits: don’t touch red wine, no more than 4 shots at a time, eat well before going out. Personal experience generally can’t be trumped in this regard; knowing your own limits and tolerance helps you monitor what you’re having and when, keeping you in the room and having a good time. This experimentation has its own risks involved – putting yourself in harms way to find those limits might make for a good story the next day, but it’s your own body you’re damaging to get those facts.
Not to mention that this term has already highlighted the danger to women during nights out – not only do we have the present danger of alcohol consumption but also predatory behaviour to consider. Spiking cases are fresh in the minds of many when thinking about going out.
No, I’m not preaching abstinence, but just a bit of awareness. It is important that we keep track of how much we drink, what we drink, and with who we drink with.
Nights out are only as safe as we make them; better to get mangled in a managed way.