What a First Year Student Thinks of Alcohol

Yesterday Buzzfeed posted a video entitled “My First 30 Days Sober” and it got me thinking about my views on alcohol.

As a student, I’ve observed that the university culture seems to fuel a lot of alcohol-based social activity; there are always bar crawls and club nights being advertised from student unions and everyone’s always talking about the clubs they go to each night. The university lifestyle seems to glorify the excess consumption of alcohol and subscribing to that lifestyle is part of the norm. It’s just a part of what university students go through, right?

When you say to someone that you don’t drink, the first thing they might say is “why not, come on you’re missing out, you won’t have fun if you don’t drink” when the first thing they should be saying is “oh okay I understand and I respect that, do you want something else to drink”. I was that “I don’t drink” guy in Freshers’ Week; I had tried some before but it wasn’t something I particularly raved over. I immediately felt out of my comfort zone, I was surrounded by an alcoholic environment.

It’s clear that peer pressure and alcohol do not go together. If you don’t drink while everyone else in your social group does, then you do begin to feel left out, especially when you really hate going to clubs too. I really had to go out of my comfort zone just to feel included and whilst yes I did have fun on that one bar crawl, I wouldn’t do it again.

Students often talk about how they have so little money and are waiting for the next instalment of their student finance. The cost of buying alcohol on a regular basis stacks up across the whole year and nights out in general don’t help that cost. There is no requirement to go out all the time and as I say, I think university culture does fuel that mentality. What’s more, you can have fun nights out without having to stay out until 3am in the club and also for a fraction of the cost.

But outside of university, the consumption of alcohol is engrained in our culture. When you finish your exams or have something to celebrate, it’s time to go out and get drunk. When you’re nervous about something, it’s a bit of “Dutch courage”. When it’s time to meet up with a friend you’ve not seen in ages, it’s often “let’s meet up for a drink at the pub”.

Yet as we saw in the Buzzfeed video, removing the daily beer can lead to withdrawal symptoms; I would, personally, define that as alcoholism. To me, alcoholism doesn’t always to have to be about the binge drinking or the excessive consumption. It can also be about the dependency one has on alcohol and the greater tolerance of alcohol one has. Corey says that he craves the sensation of popping open a bottle of beer and that signifies addiction and dependence and alcoholism.

But props to Corey for removing alcohol from his life for 30 days. It is no easy feat but what was incredibly sad and disappointing was the lack of support he had from his friends when they went out. That highlights the alcohol culture I discussed above. You’re a misfit if you don’t drink and you get blasted for that.

Clearly people drink to numb their problems. It’s a case of unwinding from work stresses or anxieties with a glass of white wine or a pint. While it seems to temporarily numb those issues, it doesn’t make them go away and it doesn’t do us any good either. Alcohol is a depressant and it disrupts the chemical balance of our brains. Situations are “narrowed” because of the effects on the brain and we don’t absorb every bit of information given to us, focusing on the things we want to hear. Other short-term side effects of drinking alcohol include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Impaired judgement
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Increased stress levels
  • Alcohol-induced anxiety
  • Weight gain

Everyone should know that alcohol is a drug. Alcohol is a depressant which causes an inability to react quickly, disturbed perceptions, slurred speech and unsteady movements and affects one’s ability to think rationally and distorts judgement.

Alcoholism is a problem for many and because we associate alcoholism with the binge drinking and the excessive consumption, we ignore the fact that just like other drugs like cocaine and heroin, alcohol can be addictive; it becomes a part of their lives, they become dependent on it and without it, they cannot function. Even if you don’t get drunk each time you consume alcohol, you can still be an alcoholic.

Studies have shown that exposure to alcohol from a young age increases the chance of someone trying alcohol underage. For me when I was younger, alcohol was never a part of my home life, we used to ever only cook with it and it was only ever consumed at special occasions like weddings or at Christmas and this could be part of the reason why I don’t drink alcohol.

If you have concerns about your consumption of alcohol and want advice, please check out https://www.drinkaware.co.uk.

Follow me on Twitter: @AITKitchen_Blog and @MusingMathsBlog

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Read my latest recipe post: Foolproof Funfetti Icebox Sugar Cookies

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