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Alcohol Awareness Week

The UK government issues official guidelines for alcohol use; they say that for people of any gender to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level we shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units a week, and that this should ideally be spread out over three days or more. But what does this actually mean?

What is a unit?

It’s easy to assume that 14 units means 14 drinks, but actually different drinks (and different sizes of drinks!) contain varying amounts of alcohol. For example, a single measure of spirts (25ml) that you’d buy in a pub contains one unit, which means that double has two units, and the type of drinks that you might pour for yourself at home could contain more…

A large glass of wine (250ml) contains around three units and a pint of beer or cider contains between two and three units, so they could soon add up.

What risks are we talking about?

The health risks that the government guidelines are talking about include cancers, heart and liver disease, stokes, damage to the nervous system, and physical dependency.

We know that there can be other negative consequences of drinking alcohol for students too. These might include missing lectures or deadlines, being more likely to end up in risky situations, experience accidents, injuries and antisocial behaviour, making decisions you wouldn’t normally make, a weakened immune system and a negative effect on mental health.

Is there any good news?!

If you chose to drink alcohol (and not all students do) then drinking mindfully and responsibly can be part of an active social life, and we know that spending time connecting with others can have a positive effect on our wellbeing.

Many people also find that drinking alcohol helps them to relax or feel more confident around other people. This can be helpful, but if you start to feel like you can’t relax or socialise without alcohol, or you find it difficult to stop drinking once you’ve started, then it’s important to talk to someone about those feelings.

There are lots of reasons why people enjoy drinking, otherwise they wouldn’t do it; the trick is to identify what makes a positive experience and how to keep it that way! Tips to help you manage how much you drink include:

  • Don't drink on an empty stomach - eat before (and/or during) drinking alcohol
  • Have a drink of water or soft drink to quench your thirst before you start drinking alcohol
  • Ask for spirits and mixers to be served in a tall glass - your drink will last longer without adding any extra alcohol
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones to make a good night last longer (it'll also be cheaper!)
  • Avoid buying drinks in rounds, or playing drinking games, so that you can drink at your own pace
  • Check in with yourself - if you feel like you're reaching your limits then switch to soft drinks to avoid things going downhill

You could also make an effort to spend some time socialising without alcohol – there are loads of great ways to have alcohol-free fun!

Information and support

If you are concerned about the effect that alcohol might be having on you then you can come along to the confidential Drugs and Alcohol drop-in, which runs on Monday afternoons at 1pm in the Student Life Centre

You can also speak to a student advisor from the Student Life Centre about any concerns that you have about your life as a student.

For more information on alcohol and sources of support visit the student wellbeing web pages

You can follow Alcohol Awareness week using the hashtag #AAW2017

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By: Beth Kent
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Last updated: Monday, 13 November 2017