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Alcohol: A Fresher’s Guide

Students love to drink. This is hardly a well-kept secret. Between the post-tutorial pint in the New Bar and the hordes of seshing undergrads overtaking the streets of Cork from Thursday’s onward, we sure quite enjoy our booze. And while it may be fun to grab a drink with a few friends to unwind and forget about the stress of college life, students can sometimes feel pressured to drink more than they want or should. Freshers, you are about to embark on a crazy adventure called college life. Here is some information on the student drinking culture that may be beneficial to you.

If you or anyone you know is having trouble with alcohol or alcoholism, the HSE National Drug & Alcohol Helpline can be reached by calling 1800 459 459, or by emailing helpline@hse.ie.

The student community in Ireland is particularly fond of binge-drinking, which is defined as drinking 4-5 drinks (or more) in the space of two hours. In the latest National Alcohol Diary Survey (conducted by the Irish Health Research Board in 2014), it was shown that almost two-thirds (64.3%) of 18-24 year-old drinkers consumed six or more standard drinks on a typical single drinking session. The same survey demonstrated that in this same age group, 28% of young men and 22% of young women consumed their low-risk weekly alcohol guideline in just one sitting. And although these figures are not surprising when you look at most student parties, it has a lot of frightening implications. Excessive and regular binge drinking sessions can lead to many physical and mental health issues. These issues can include and are not limited to: stomach disease, accidents, strokes, violence, sexual abuse, cancer and depression. I will talk about some of the resources available around campus if to deal with these issues later in this article.

But beforehand, let us look at what exactly constitutes a standard drink, and some tips on safe drinking. A standard drink refers to: half a pint of lager, beer or stout (284ml), a small glass of wine (100ml) or a pub measure of spirits (35.5ml). The recommended low-risk weekly alcohol consumption guideline states that adult women can drink up to 11 standard drinks spread throughout the week, and that adult men can drink up to 17 standard drinks. It is recommended to have at least two alcohol-free days per week, and that your 11 or 17 drinks should not be saved up for a night or a weekend.

Tips for drinkers:

  • Try not to drink on an empty stomach. Food is known to help slow down the absorption of alcohol into the body.
  • Drink plenty of water during your drinking session. It will prevent dehydration and will reduce the effect of your hangover the following day.
  • Space out your drinks. Binge drinking is one of the most dangerous practice relating to drinking. Try to drink your pints slowly. The taste of alcohol and the company is more important than the number of cans you can down in an evening.
  • Keep an eye on your drink and don’t accept drinks from strangers. Spiking does not only happen to other people.
  • Keep an eye out for your friends. Make sure they are safe. Stop them from doing crazy things, take away their car keys, encourage them to drink water etc.
  • Most importantly, have fun. A night out should be all about fun, and not about feeling pressured or partaking in some sort of drinking Olympics. Enjoy your friends’ presence.

Tips for non-drinkers:

  • If you go to a house party, bring your own non-alcoholic drink. Not only will it allow you to drink something other than tap water, but it is easier for you to turn down a drink if you have options.
  • If you can drive, offer to be the designated driver. While you do not need to come up with excuses not to drink, being the designated driver will often make your choice more easily accepted.
  • There are plenty of events on campus that are not drink related. With over 100 clubs and societies, there will always be something on!
  • Continue to go out and have fun with your drinking friends. A bar is just as fun without alcohol, and the buzz from an overpriced cocktail is not required for a good time.

Dealing with a hangover:

  • No matter how many litres of water you drank during your sesh, continue to do so the following day. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • Although it is good to have food before and while you drink, try to eat light food when you are hungover. You will probably feel nauseated already, so there is no need to make it worse with greasy food. Try thin soups or the classic dry toast.
  • Get some fresh air, and maybe do some light exercise.
  • Some people say that the best way to not be hungover anymore is start drinking again. This will only delay the inevitable. Give alcohol a rest for a while, for at least a day.
  • Rest. Try your best not to skip lectures or tutorials, but in your free time, don’t overwork yourself.

Finally, if you are feeling too physically sick because of your drinking or drug use, do not hesitate to visit your GP or visit the student health centre. If you think that drinking is interfering with your life and is causing you problems, you can contact the Students’ Union Welfare Officer, Kelly, who will listen to you and talk you through all the different resources available in UCC. The UCC Health Service also has psychologists that can help with addictions, as well as providing a counselling service. UCC Student Health is located in Ard Patrick on College Road. They can be contacted at 021 490 2311 for any non-urgent matters.