Students and alcohol: The good, the bad and messy.

I think it’s about time I wrote a blog that has potential to be controversial. More than anything, because I love opening up a debate with people passionate about their views. So let’s tackle the whole alcohol thing, especially with the government coming out this morning with their plans to set a minimum cost per unit of alcohol that bars and shops etc. will be able to sell at.

I don’t think that anyone would really argue that there is a strong alcohol culture amongst university students. No not every student drinks heavily or even drinks at all, but a fair number of students do drink, and drink a lot. So let unpick this a bit more. Is it that universities generate an atmosphere with the right conditions for students to want to drink heavily? Is it that Students themselves feel the need to drink heavily as a result of inevitably knowing they won’t be able to do it as often once they leave University, start a full time job, and start to think about settling down? Or is it just because cheap alcohol is so readily available in highly student saturated areas? With local bars and clubs near universities promoting drinks offers that cost the students next to nothing, encouraging them to drink large quantities in a short space of time with the attractive accompaniment of not breaking the bank in the process.

More than likely is that it’s combination of differing levels of all three. But there’s been a lot of pressure in recent times from the likes of the Government and from the National union of Students (NUS) to change the alcohol culture at universities, and reduce the number of students having to be carried home from nights unconscious and covered in sick, mmm lovely.

As a Students’ Union, we along with students’ union across the country, have a duty of care students of our University, and have a clear remit for safeguarding the welfare of our members across Edge Hill, Which is why this year we took the decision to develop a responsible drinking policy with the university. The key aspects being that large external drinking events not run in collaboration with either  the University or Students’ Union, will not be able to sell tickets or t-shirts etc for their events on our campuses. I’m quite sure that those reading between the lines will instantly see this in relation to carnage, and as much as many students may simply see the University being a kill joy or trying to ruin their fun, students should really take the time to ask themselves why companies like this run these type of events? Is it to create an enjoyable and safe event for students to enjoy sensibly and responsible? Or is it to encourage students to drink irresponsibly and dangerously for the sole purpose of making a profit? I think you know which one I think it is, but I’ll let you make up your own mind.

I suppose the question here is, if events like this regularly put students at risk, and have a track record for negative press as a result of well documented incidents that have happened at such events, is that something a Students’ Union should just ignore? And instead choose not take responsibility for the welfare of its students? Or would that make the Students’ Union and the University as equally irresponsible as the companies that run these events? Mmmm interesting thoughts.

I’ll leave you with one final thought. Currently, around 40% of all patients admitted to A&E in the UK are diagnosed with alcohol-related injuries or illnesses, many of which result from binge drinking.

I would be very interested to hear what some of your views are on this so please leave a comment or as always you can e-mail me at suvpfas@edgehill.ac.uk or phone me on 01695 657311.

Thanks again for reading,

Billy

6 thoughts on “Students and alcohol: The good, the bad and messy.

  1. Jedrek

    I’m a soon-to-be graduate and have been sober for half a year, and although I do not drink I acknowledge the fact that there is a strong drinking culture in universities.. not in every single social group, but most. If universities are worried about safety and alcohol related incidents, I think the only thing they can do is hire more security as a precaution should any drunken brawls unfold. People will be people, regardless if they’re students, and people like to get intoxicated, whether it’s alcohol, or other drugs. Being responsible and sensible about it is entirely up to them. If they want to act like idiots and drink themselves silly and vomit all over themselves, as long as it’s not causing anyone else any harm, leave them to it; if they are “smart” enough to get into university they should be smart enough to know the effects of alcohol to the body short-term and long-term. It’s their body, their choice. Like I said, the only thing that should be done is getting more security on campus during events. If someone is to make a profit on students acting stupid then I don’t have a problem with that.

  2. Chris Wood

    I have the hindight of age and experience and look at this from the point of view of being an A&E Consultant who deals with the aftermath. There is cheap alcohol, really cheap alcohol and escalating quality and cost of alcohol. As a student, I was poor, was developing my taste, working out my own tolerance (which yes did involve a bit of vomiting), exploring the world and did not have the pressures of work and family. As a student I rarely drank really cheap alcohol (Aldi sherry or spirits), but would drink discount real ale (still would not really be touched by currnet goverment price capping). I learned quickly to work out what I could drink so that I knew who I was, where I was and how I was getting home. I then made sure I did get home. With time I honed this to also avoiding a hangover on most occasions. Buying alcohol in a pub or even student union bar, should put you in a safety position as opposed to ridiculously cheap off licence sales, as the person selling the alcohol should reserve the right to refuse if you are overly intoxicated. This does rely on sense, moral and ability to make enough money to stay open on the part of the bar staff. Cheap alcohol promotions do not necessarily make money, and if you are foolish to drink these to excess it is indeed your own fault.
    The levels I now drink are still beyond what the government and various health authorities parallel to my speciality would advise. Some of this has scientific basis, but a lot does not. For instance, can you calculate a unit, and if you can, can you find the scientific rational for its size in this country (its not an SI unit).
    Now as I earn more, I do not drink more alcohol. I just drink better alcohol. I also drink less due to the pressures of above. I did not become alcholic and am relatively fit and healthy (smoking would be a far worse vice).
    Stay safe. Drink to enjoy – it is still one of the remaining socially acceptable drugs in this country, so don’t spoil it and remember, if your drinking is affecting others in any way, its gone too far.

  3. Carole Clarke

    I think that some people cannot drink in moderation, especially the young, as they are at the discovery stage of everything. It seems to be a right of passage. Unfortunately, with the availability of cheap alcohol, this can make this situation worse than it used to be. Along with the abundance of other cheap substances, this is very worrying indeed. Although there are more alcohol-related deaths, than through illegal substances.
    The companies who produce this stuff, sell it cheaply and the government are to blame, in my view, as they know how dangerous drinking is but continue to put profit and taxes before health and lives. Despite there being lots of information out in the public domain about the negative effects of problem drinking, the choice lies with the individual at the end of the day. The only trouble is when people are in groups, drinking escalates and can become competitive – it seems a good time cannot be had without it.
    After seeing a partner struggle with this for a number of years; the lies; the stealing; the erosion of trust; the abusive behaviour; the damage to the family; the debt; the waste of thousands; the going through the drying out process every six months; the waste of time… all this left me empty. He died young, he could not give it up, most can’t.

  4. Chris Wood

    Despite my previous overly long post, I agree with Carol and that to some, there needs to be a responsible government not so closely linked to the drinks industry. There is nothing that can replace the loss of life and I see this every day and do not belittle it. Competitive drinking is not responsible. It is not fun, smart or socially acceptable.
    Taxation and minimal price levels are sadly seperate, and drinks companies are prepared to sell at a loss in certain circumstances (still themselves paying the same tax, but not passing it on to the consumer) so as to make a profit at other times. Supermarkets are renowned for selling alcohol at a loss. This is aggressive marketing. Resist the marketing. It and the waste that ensues cannot be denied.

  5. Sarah Fergie

    I definitely agree with the comments regarding cheap alcohol, it is widely available at our everyday stores stacked onto shelves at arms length even to children! The point I’d like to make on this discussion is that we should look further than our years at uni. As teenagers many of us (including myself) were not given many extra curricular opportunities which can promote new friendships and activities. Many of us simply mimic our parents, friends and t.v, (where most of the recording is set in pubs!) The point I’m getting at is that the ideas of social drinking is drummed into our heads as an acceptable form of regular socialising. Indeed, students can take these opportunities too far and spontaneity can become something of a ego booster, I.e- randomn acts of stupidity especially on campus. My argument would be that there should be more choice within each of our minds when it comes to engaging in activities with friends. I see many runners around campus, such a good form of exeresize and that go it alone, why not rally up a few friends and try something, productive, healthy and most definately different! 🙂

  6. Rachael

    Although I agree will the comments above, being a student straight from sixth form the first thing highlighted to you is the student life of drinking when you want. This is the appeal for many the fact it is cheap is a bonus, for many this is their first time away from home and therefore no supervision, they want to enjoy it as much as possible and sadly todays culture links fun with getting drunk. I believe though whether carnage t-shirts are sold on campus or not those who want to go will venture out to buy them elsewhere and student unions can not prevent this as the events are already well advertised especially through social networking such as facebook. The best thing student Unions can do is make the campaign for drinking responsibly wider and link this to carnage and other events like it.

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