Features | Alcohol awareness: unity and units

Awareness of alcohol is more than just thinking about having a little less to drink on a weekly basis. Thousands of young people’s lives are ruined every day by alcoholism both directly and indirectly. It’s about more than the pretence of changing your drinking pattern, or keeping a half hearted diary for one week. Our generation faces a great many challenges and a number of us will struggle with the pres- sures and obstacles that life will inevitably throw in the way. Alcohol awareness should be more than thinking about what you are doing to yourself through the onslaught of discount drinks that are part and parcel of the hedonistic student lifestyle. The best way to keep people happy, productive and sober is through communication and mutual support.

Most students will have reached the minimum age of 18 to buy and consume alcohol when they first arrive at university. These students will regularly consume alcohol during their degree up to three times a week. Reasons for drinking can be as varied as the personalities of the students themselves. Some may drink just to get drunk, others feel that they simply cannot enjoy themselves without alcohol and another group of students drink because they are normally quite shy and anxious and need the alcohol to be more sociable. Sadly there might also be a number of students that drink alcohol to forget their problems.

Drinking to excess has always been a quintessential part of the student experience and I imagine that it always will be, mainly because it’s fun and a way of bonding with your fellow students. Despite this, most of us have a friend who doesn’t know how to handle their alcohol that we all harbour a little concern for. Think of those in your social groups who use alcohol as a crutch. These people, if not helped, will turn into the statistics that are used to shock us into sensible behaviour.

Alcoholism can take hold at any age with young, isolated and insecure people being among those who are most at risk. Small acts of kindness, such as reaching out to someone you know who is quietly going under in dangerous relationship with alcohol could save them from an addiction that has the potential to kill them slowly, in an excruciatingly public manner that is painful both for them and for everyone who has ever cared about them.

It’s a sad reality that stopping drinking is less than half the battle. Anyone who has struggled with alcohol will know the difficulty of facing a life without the support that drinking gives them through thick and thin. Alcoholism can wreak financial and emotional havoc on both families and individuals for the rest of their lives, denying others their right to be happy and free, even if the suffering alcoholic never has another drink in their life. It may be hard for students to relate to the gnarled, crippled image of an alcoholic that we are presented by most alcohol awareness charities, but we should be able to link dependent behaviour in other young people to that unfortunate destination.

As young people we are capable of bringing about great change. We’re bombarded on a daily basis by reports of unspeakable cruelty occurring across the world, inequality and a failing global financial system. Many of us feel overwhelmed by the daunting prospect of leaving university and thrusting ourselves out into an ailing economy with many graduates struggling to find work. Every day young people in unfortunate situations are helpless to the fact that they are losing everything, with no way of improving their situation.

This is the week to reflect upon the way we conduct ourselves in a largely hostile environment and try to take into account the wider reaching reasons for people to turn to alcohol when they feel they have nothing else.

Even in moderate amounts alcohol can cause multiple problems. Actually, in more than half of all cases reported to A&E on Friday and Saturday nights alcohol plays a role. Yet it is not just that those who abuse alcohol can be physically hurt but there is also the risk of psychological damage.

We are not necessarily responsible for the current circumstances that drive young people to drink. We are, however, responsible for accepting that young people are often hit hardest by inequality and injustice in society and need to be proactive in helping those in need while they can still be helped. This week isn’t about depriving yourself of fun in the name of awareness, it’s about recognising those who have had to sacrifice their own futures due to alcohol and helping those still struggling among us before it’s decades too late.


Joseph Birch
Michelle Heinrich

There will be an alcohol awareness stall in the Union entrance on Thursday November 21, 1.30-4pm and Friday 22 12-2pm. There will be the opportunity to try a breathalyser, beer goggles and to learn about safe drinking recommendations 

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