Students Drinking Alcohol – Is It A Problem?

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It’s no secret that college students and university students enjoy drinking alcohol, whether it be during freshers’ week, in student halls, or on designated student nights.

In cities all across the UK, student nights offer alcoholic drinks at slashed prices – whether it be half-priced drinks or special multi-buy deals on shots – making alcohol more available than ever. Some student events also offer themed drinks to make the alcohol on offer more appealing.

Because so many students and young adults drink alcohol, it isn’t seen as a problem by everybody. Is it just a bit of harmless fun, or is it a problem? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Read on to learn more about alcohol, alcohol addiction, the dangers of students drinking alcohol, and how to monitor your alcohol intake at university.

We’ll also go into detail about the alcohol rehab process, and how our team at Help4Addiction can help you if you have an alcohol problem, or your child or loved one at university has a problem with alcohol.

*In this post, we mention sexual assault, self-harm and suicide*.

Is Drinking Alcohol Dangerous?

Alcohol can be a dangerous substance – especially when abused. Just like many other substances, alcohol can have negative effects both in the short term and the long term. Alcohol, or more specifically, binge drinking, can increase the risk of the following immediate effects:

However, it isn’t just these short-term risks that alcohol can be a causal factor. Alcohol can also pose long-term health risks. Alcohol abuse, long periods of binge drinking, and alcohol addiction/ alcohol use disorder can increase the chances of you developing chronic diseases.

For example, alcohol can increase the risk of you developing cancer. The risk can depend on a variety of factors – for example, your age and genetics. However, you’re statistically more likely to get cancer if you drink alcohol than if you don’t.

Alcohol and mental health issues are closely linked – research shows that those who drink large quantities of alcohol are more likely to develop mental health problems than those who don’t. Likewise, those with mental health issues tend to be more prone to alcohol problems.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to social issues – for example, family problems, relationship issues, and even problems with employment. Drinking alcohol excessively can also lead to you developing alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence.

Some other physical health issues linked to alcohol use include heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, stroke, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.

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What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a dangerous drinking pattern that can have many negative effects on your physical health as well as your mental health.

The NHS defines binge drinking as drinking a large amount of alcohol on a single occasion and can increase the risk of losing your inhibitions and misjudging certain situations, as well as accidents that result in injury – and many more negative effects.

It isn’t easy to judge a safe level of drinking, or to determine exactly how many units of alcohol class as ‘binge drinking’. That being said, sticking to the recommended limits put in place by the NHS and the UK Government is the best way of making sure you don’t binge drink.

The recommended limit of alcohol per week is 14 units of alcohol, spread across the span of three or more days.

This is the same as 6 medium glasses of wine or 6 pints of 4% beer. Although there is no level of drinking that is considered safe, drinking in moderation and having no more than 14 units of alcohol within the span of three days is sure to lower the risk of alcohol-related damage to your health.

The Office of National Statistics defines binge drinking as drinking over eight units in one single session for men, and over six for women.

However, everybody’s drinking habits are different, and the effects can vary depending on their history with alcohol and other factors such as height and weight. This makes it difficult to have one clear definition of binge drinking.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse typically involves binge drinking – binge drinking, is a dangerous drinking pattern that can result in mild to severe consequences. For example, relationship problems, legal issues such as drink-driving, and failing to fulfil responsibilities such as attending classes or work.

Alcohol abuse is defined as drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time and can increase the chances of developing alcohol poisoning (having an alcohol overdose).

Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is too much alcohol in your bloodstream. It can affect the areas in your brain that control life-supporting functions – for example, your heart rate, temperature, and even your breathing.

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal – and should be considered a medical emergency. Recognising the signs of alcohol poisoning can save your life or somebody else’s life – some signs to look out for include:

Drinking Alcohol at University

Although students can be any age, most students are young adults. According to a survey conducted in 2019, roughly 9% of full-time students between the ages of 18 and 22 (young adults) meet the criteria for AUD (alcohol use disorder).

Around 70% of students at LMU (Leeds Metropolitan University) admitted that they have partaken in binge drinking at least one time.

However, 80% of students at the same university said that they follow the UK government guidelines of having at least two consecutive days of not drinking alcohol each week.

Many university students (as well as college students) enjoy drinking alcohol – however, the problem tends to be that they enjoy getting drunk or ‘binge drinking’ – which is a particularly dangerous pattern of alcohol consumption.

A study involving college students suggested that students drastically overestimate how much alcohol they are pouring into their alcoholic beverages.

In all three tasks in the study, students poured more alcohol into their drinks – increasing the cup size. Students overpoured mixed drinks by 80%, shots by 26%, and beer by 25%.

This study could suggest that students don’t give accurate information when completing alcohol-related surveys, as they may not be aware of exactly how much alcohol they are consuming.

Students should be educated on alcohol consumption, and take more care to measure the alcohol content in the drinks they pour.

Why Do Students Drink So Much At University?

In the UK, the legal drinking age is 18 – so many students starting university already have some experience with alcohol.

When we talk about students in this post, we’re not referencing young teenagers or underage drinking – we’re talking about students above the age of 18 who can legally drink alcohol.

The widespread availability of alcohol in many university cities can lead to an alcohol problem – as can a lack of firm structure (e.g afternoon lectures and mid-week days off), and lack of interaction with non-students (e.g parents and caregivers).

Freshers week aside, the first few months of university can be a vulnerable time when it comes to heavy drinking. There are many reasons for this – for example, settling into university life, socialising with new people, and the variety of event nights available.

A preventive factor that is often overlooked in regards to university/ college student drinking is the influence of parents. According to some research, students who chose not to drink too often decided that because their parents had discussions with them regarding alcohol – including the adverse consequences of alcohol.

Negative Consequences of Drinking Heavily at University

Drinking heavily at university can have many negative consequences – it can not only affect your physical and mental health but cause your grades to drop and even increase the risk of assault or criminal activity.

Read on to learn more about how drinking heavily at university can affect your life in a negative way.


Alcohol can lower your inhibitions, which can make you more likely to either assault somebody – or if you’re around others who are drinking, more likely to be a victim of assault.

It isn’t just physical assault such as punches or bar fights that can occur after heavy drinking – but alcohol-related sexual assault.

Sexual predators may opt for somebody who is clearly intoxicated as they may be less physically able to fight back due to the effects of alcohol. Heavy drinking can cause you to pass out too, which means you would be physically unable to fight back.

Both sexual and physical assault can cause long-term mental trauma, and affect your mental health. However, sexual assault doesn’t just cause psychological damage – there’s a risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), or becoming pregnant.


Drinking alcohol can increase the chance of sustaining an injury, whether it be a minor injury such as a small cut or a trip. The chances of getting injured tend to increase the higher your blood alcohol content.

Because alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the activity in the brain which affects your body’s responses. It also affects your inhibition, which means that warning signals may not work in the event of danger.

Alcohol can alter your mind significantly, and make you act irrationally. People that suffer from mental health issues such as depression or anxiety may be at risk of injuring themselves intentionally or even attempting suicide.

Health Issues

It’s no secret that heavy drinking can cause health issues – and students are not immune to this. If you binge drink or abuse alcohol, whether it be at university, school, or in later life, the chances of developing alcohol-related health issues in both the short term and the long term greatly increase.

Alcohol abuse and excessive alcohol consumption have been found to be causal factors in more than 60 medical conditions.

Some common alcohol-related health issues include high blood pressure, liver damage, cancer (including breast cancer), and inflammation of the pancreas.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as a student can also increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder – alcohol addiction/ alcohol dependence.

Alcoholism tends to develop after years of drinking or abusing alcohol, so it could occur through excessive drinking throughout your time at university.

Dropping Grades

The student lifestyle in the UK can make you forget the main point of university – to learn more about the topic you’re studying and eventually get a degree.

However, if you’re drinking more nights than not, you may find yourself skipping classes or feeling too hungover to attend morning lectures.

Likewise, excessive drinking at university can lead to you skipping later classes to prioritise drinking. Gaining a degree, especially a first-class degree, requires dedication, motivation, and a lot of hard work.

However, if alcohol becomes a priority, you may put less work into your studies and end up getting a poor grade – or failing the year and having to resit, which can set you back thousands of pounds.

A study from 2013 suggested that drinking alcohol leads to negative associations with motivation, and ultimately academic performance.

The study also suggested that alcohol prevention activities at university could have a positive impact on the academic success of students.

Criminal Record

It’s no secret that alcohol can change your behaviour. Some people may become more aggressive when consuming large amounts of behaviour, affecting the way that they usually behave.

In the UK, alcohol is considered a factor in roughly 39% of violent crimes in England – and 49% of violent crimes in Wales. It is also known to be a contributing factor in anti-social behaviour and public disorder around the country.

Some forms of crime that are commonly associated with intoxicated students include property damage, driving under the influence (drunk driving), and vandalism.

In some cases, these criminal offences can be serious and even lead to fatalities – for example, homicide or manslaughter.

This can lead to students not only being a victim of crime, but facing legal punishments such as jail time, fines, probation, and being expelled from their university.

How To Monitor Alcohol Consumption At University

It can be difficult to monitor how much you drink at university – especially when your friends are all drinking. Many university events happen in people’s homes – for example, student accommodation or student flats/ student houses – where it’s difficult to measure your consumption.

Drinking in the pub or in a bar, on the other hand, can make it easier for you to track how much you’re drinking. This is because if you ask for a double measure, then you know you’re getting a double measure.

If you pour it yourself at a party or ‘pre-drinks’, then you can’t be sure exactly how much you’re drinking unless you use a measuring device.

As a student, and in general, life, make sure you’re having at least two days a week where you’re not drinking alcohol. If you can’t stick to this level of drinking, then you may have a problem with alcohol – and you may need help to manage your problem.

This is something we can help with at Help4Addiction – contact us today to learn more, or scroll down to the ‘Rehab for Alcohol Addiction’ section of this page.

To drink safely, be sure to avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Likewise, avoid consuming strong drinks, and avoid drinking beverages that you’re not sure what alcohol they contain.

Never leave a drink unattended and don’t trust strangers with your drink – students are often at risk of having their drinks spiked.

Likewise, avoid accepting drinks from strangers – you won’t know exactly how much alcohol you’re drinking, or whether it has been spiked with other substances or party drugs.

Although drinking games can be fun and are common occurrences at student parties and events, they can be dangerous as you consume large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time. Drinking games can also come with peer pressure, encouraging you to drink more than you wish to.

Some university students or college students may feel stressed at university – the workload can be difficult to manage, as can moving away from home for the first time.

Don’t drink alcoholic drinks to avoid the pressure of university life – instead, find healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness or exercise.

Drinking alcohol can be fun to do at university, but it’s important that you don’t let it affect your life or your studies – and be cautious when consuming it. Despite the fact that drinking alcohol is common in the UK, especially at university, it can still be a dangerous drug when abused.

Rehab For Alcohol Addiction

If you’re reading this page because you’re worried that you or a loved one may have an addiction to alcohol, then you’re in the right place. At Help4Addiction, we have contact with rehab clinics all around the UK.

Our expert team will take the time to listen to your story, and take your requirements and preferences into consideration to find the right rehabilitation centre for you.

There are different types of rehab – and one size does not fit all. What works for you may not work for somebody else, and vice versa.

For example, some people benefit from inpatient rehab at an inpatient centre, whereas others would rather attend rehab as an outpatient (outpatient rehab). If you’re a student, outpatient treatment may feel like the best option.

Some people prefer quasi-residential rehab, which involves living at a rehab centre while attending rehab sessions at a different facility. Some people can’t afford private rehab so opt for NHS-operated rehab. We’ll take the time to discuss what’s best for you.

The Rehab Process Explained

The thought of attending rehab may feel daunting – but knowing what to expect can soothe your concerns. This is why we’re going to explain the stages of the alcohol addiction rehab process, from start to finish.

Whether you’re a college student, a university student or you simply want to learn more about alcohol rehab, you’re in the right place. The first stage of alcohol rehab, or any substance addiction rehab (e.g drug addiction or nicotine addiction rehab), involves detoxing from the substance.

Some people are given detox medication – as, during alcohol detox, people may experience unpleasant and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

The length of alcohol detox can vary from person to person depending on a range of factors – for example, addiction history, tolerance levels, height, and weight.

The next stage of alcohol rehab involves therapy. Different clinics will offer different therapies and counselling services – but key forms of therapy include counselling, group therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy), and interpersonal therapy.

Therapy can be beneficial not only in treating mental health conditions but improving your strength and confidence. You may learn a lot about yourself and your addiction during therapy. For example, you may learn more about any root causes of your addiction, or your triggers.

Leaving rehab and returning to your everyday life can feel scary – and you may be worried about relapsing.

After completing rehab, you may wish to receive aftercare/ secondary treatment. Some forms of aftercare include support groups (e.g Alcoholics Anonymous), group therapy, and counselling. Aftercare aims to prevent relapse, easing the transition from rehab to your normal life.

How We Can Help

At Help4Addiction, we understand that alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and other substance abuse and addiction issues can be debilitating, not only affecting yourself but your loved ones too.

Help4Addiction was founded by a former addict that needed rehab to save his life. Once he received the treatment he needed, his main goal became to use his personal experiences with addiction to help others facing similar problems.

Whether you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, prescription and illegal, we can find the right treatment plan and rehab facility for you, wherever you’re based today. Contact us today to get the ball rolling on the admissions process.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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