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Staying safe and healthy around alcohol at university

A recent study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) into the effect of alcohol on public health has revealed 13.5 % of deaths of people aged 20-30 are related to alcohol. Although alcohol-related deaths worldwide have dropped since the 2012 review, from 5.9 % to 5.3 %, the burden of alcohol on society remains incredibly high.

University comes hand-in-hand with drinking culture. From socialising with flatmates in freshers, integrating into clubs and societies to some students using alcohol to try and cope with stress, alcohol seems to permeate every aspect of university life. With the WHO findings pointing to alcohol as a real danger to people in their 20s, how can students stay safe whilst still having a good time?

From socialising with flatmates in freshers, integrating into clubs and societies to some students using alcohol to try and cope with stress, alcohol seems to permeate every aspect of university life

Almost a third of alcohol-related deaths were found to be injury related – unintentional or intentional. When going out, stay with a group of friends and look out each other. Avoid busy roads, and plan your transport home in advance. If you have a particular snack you like after a night out, prepare it beforehand – do not use or let your friends use knives after drinking. Never drive, or get into a car with someone under the influence of alcohol, download Uber or stash emergency taxi money in case you get stuck.

Alcohol also increases the likelihood of intentional injury. It can increase the likelihood of having a panic attack and is a depressant. If you are feeling low, or otherwise not mentally your best, take it slowly and tell a friend beforehand how you are feeling. If you notice a friend who has been suffering mental health problems drinking heavily, make sure to watch out for them on the night, even once you are home. If you think they (or yourself) are using alcohol to cope, talk it through in the morning, and encourage them to seek help from a doctor or therapist.

Almost a third of alcohol-related deaths were found to be injury related- unintentional or intentional

The next greatest alcohol-related cause of death is digestive disorders. Alcohol increases the risk of cancer in all parts of the digestive system, as it and its digestion product acetaldehyde are class one carcinogens. Heavy drinking can lead to a fatty liver, or in the case of extreme binge drinking, liver cirrhosis. Take at least a couple of nights off a week, and try and limit binge drinking. Space drinks with water or soft drinks to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and to help with the next day’s hangover.

Plenty of students choose not to drink for a variety of health, religious, or personal reasons and still have great social lives. Whether it’s choosing to attend some more “sober socials”, have a flat games night, or braving a sober POP!, taking a few socials sober is good for you health and your grades. Social secretaries of societies cannot force you to drink alcohol or exclude you from socials for choosing not to do so. If this becomes a problem, have a quiet word with the president or another exec member – if necessary take it up with the sports/socs officer, personal choice should not exclude you from clubs or societies. Some clubs and socs even run a “duty” system where a couple of members or exec volunteer to stay sober or drink lightly to keep an eye on everyone else, you can always volunteer for a couple of these to give yourself a break from booze.

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