Ways You Can Avoid Alcohol During University

It’s no secret that university students enjoy drinking, with student parties, student nights, and an endless amount of drinking games.

Because so many students drink alcohol, many people don’t see heavy drinking as a problem. However, drinking too much alcohol can have negative effects on a person’s life – including their studies, their relationships, and of course, their physical health and mental health.

Whether you’re looking to stop drinking during your time at university, or you simply wish to drink less, it can be difficult to know how to steer clear of alcohol as a student.

Because alcohol appears to be everywhere as a student – bottles of alcohol in your student flat, promoters in town offering deals on student events, and parties all nights of the week – it can feel impossible to avoid it.

However, it is entirely possible to avoid drinking and quit alcohol as a student – and we’re going to give you our top tips.

On this page, we are going to delve into the ins and outs of binge drinking and explore whether alcohol consumption is a problem among students.

Read on to learn more about binge drinking, alcohol consumption at university, and of course, our top tips on how you can avoid drinking alcohol at university.

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse – it classes as a dangerous drinking pattern. Binge drinking, both in the short term and the long term, can have a negative impact on your physical health and contribute to and even cause mental health issues.

The effects of alcohol can vary depending on a range of factors – for example, a person’s height or weight, age, and history with alcohol. This makes it difficult to have a clear definition of binge drinking.

According to the NHS, binge drinking is defined as drinking an excessive amount of alcohol during one single occasion.

It can increase the risk of misjudging certain situations and losing your inhibitions, and increase the chances of accidents occurring that result in injury. There is a wide range of negative effects of binge drinking.

The Office of National Statistics goes into specifics regarding the definition of binge drinking. They define binge drinking as consuming more than eight units of alcohol in one single session for men, and more than six units for women.

Everybody’s drinking habits are different, and it can be difficult to judge what level of drinking is safe – with some experts suggesting that no level of drinking is considered safe and risk-free.

That being said, sticking within the recommended limits of alcohol consumption is considered to be ‘low-risk’, and drinking in moderation will likely lower the risk of alcohol-related damage to your health.

The recommended alcohol limit per week is 14 units of alcohol. This should be spread across three or more days. 14 units are roughly the same as six medium glasses of wine or six single measures of spirits (for example, six glasses of single vodka and cokes).

Over time, abusing alcohol could lead to you becoming physically dependent on alcohol, which can impact all areas of your life – including your studies, finances, relationships, and your health. Alcohol dependence can be difficult to break without the right treatment.

You may experience unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms, as well as a range of physical health problems. At Help4Addiction, we can help to find the right alcohol addiction treatment for you. See ‘What To Do If You Have An Alcohol Problem’ for more.

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Is Alcohol Consumption In Students a Problem?

It’s no secret that drinking alcohol is very much a part of university culture in the UK – however, is drinking a problem among students?

Most students are young adults – however, university students can be any age from 18 onwards. A survey conducted back in 2019 found that around 9% of full-time students within the age range of 18-22 met the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

The same study highlighted that 70% of students at Leeds Metropolitan University had partaken in binge drinking/ alcohol abuse on at least one occasion.

That being said, 80% of students at LMU state that they follow the guidelines put in place by the UK Government of having at least two consecutive days per week of not drinking.

This suggests that there is a problem among university students regarding excessive drinking. Although students may consume alcohol to have fun and unwind, ‘binge drinking’ is a particularly dangerous drinking pattern.

Another study explored how much alcohol students drink – and found that students tend to overestimate the amount of alcohol they are pouring into their drinks.

The study set three tasks – and in each one, students poured more alcohol into their drinks than they thought, increasing with the cup size. They overpoured mixed drinks by 80%, beer by 25%, and shorts by 26%.

This suggests that students aren’t always aware of how much alcohol they are consuming when they pour it themselves. Likewise, this study highlights the inaccuracy of self-completed surveys – as students may not be providing accurate information regarding their alcohol intake.

Why Do University Students Drink So Much?

Compared to other countries like the USA where the drinking age is 21, the legal drinking age in the UK is 18 (to buy alcohol). This means that it’s legal for university students to drink alcoholic beverages – although many young people consume alcohol under the age of 18.

Evidence suggests that underage drinking in the UK is a problem. Thousands of schoolchildren are excluded from school annually for drug and alcohol-related incidents. Likewise, thousands of children admit to drinking alcohol underage.

In 2018, almost half of children in England between the ages of 11 and 15 had consumed alcohol. The figure is also high regarding children in Scotland, with 28% of 13-year-old children and 66% of 15-year-olds consuming alcohol.

Many young people may not even realise that underage drinking can be problematic – with over half of children in the age range of 11-15 thinking it’s acceptable to drink alcohol at their age.

Drinking from a young age can cement the idea that alcohol is acceptable, and potentially lead to them drinking more in later life.

Underage drinking could be a reason why so many students abuse alcohol at university – because they believe that it is ‘normal’ behaviour, and have done so from a young age.

Another reason why university students may drink so much is that there is widespread availability of alcohol in most university cities in the UK.

With reduced prices on certain nights, 2-4-1 shots, free shots on entry, and many more student deals, many students take advantage of slashed prices on alcohol in university cities.

The transition from living at home to moving to university and adjusting to the lack of structure can also impact the amount of alcohol students drink. Having afternoon lectures, days off in the middle of the week, and lack of interaction from parents or caregivers could be a reason why students may abuse alcohol.

The influence of parents may also impact the likelihood of students drinking alcohol in excess.

Research suggests that students who chose to drink in moderation/ not drink much had previous discussions with their parents regarding alcohol. Their parents would speak to them about the adverse consequences of alcohol abuse.

How To Avoid Alcohol At University

Avoiding alcohol at university may feel like an uphill battle, especially when it’s ingrained in the culture of student life.

However, it doesn’t have to be too difficult to steer clear of alcohol as a student – we have compiled some tips that can help you stay sober and quit drinking throughout your time at university.

Whether you want to stop drinking altogether or you wish to limit the amount you drink, read on for more.

Opt For Non-Alcoholic Options

If you’re fresh out of rehab or you’ve recently started your recovery journey, this option may be a little more difficult. However, if you simply want to stop drinking at university, then this is a great option.

More and more alcohol brands are releasing quality alcohol-free alternatives – you can find non-alcoholic beer, cider, and larger, and a whole range of alcohol-free spirits such as Gin, Vodka, and even alcohol-free whiskey.

Additionally, you could always ask for virgin cocktails or purchase pre-mixed cocktails that contain no alcohol.

If you feel comfortable going to bars where others will be drinking booze, be sure to opt for alcohol-free alternatives.

However, if you don’t like the taste of alcohol or are worried that drinking a replica will trigger your addiction, you could simply ask for a coke – it looks the same as a vodka coke if you don’t feel comfortable disclosing that you’re sober.

It can feel scary telling others that you’re not drinking or that you’re sober, and you may be worried about what your friends will think of you. However, the reality is that most people would not care, and would want to encourage and support you on your sobriety journey.

Get Stuck Into Societies

Universities have many societies – a simple walk through your university’s Freshers Fair will show you how many societies are available to join that don’t involve alcohol.

From fitness-related societies such as football, gymnastics, or even trampolining societies to hobby-related societies such as music, food, and radio societies, there’s sure to be something for you to enjoy that can help you quit drinking.

You can also find teetotal societies in most university cities. These societies may involve activities such as meeting up in cafes, going out for food, or more fun activities such as sober karaoke, bingo, quizzes, and game nights.

Sober societies welcome pretty much anybody who has the desire to stop drinking, whether they are in recovery or just want to lower the amount of alcohol they drink at university.

This will give you something to do during your spare time instead of going to the bar. It will also give you a chance to meet people with the same interests as you.

Many people will make the mistake of only spending time with their flatmates or course friends, despite the fact that they drink lots of alcohol.

If you’re in recovery, you may wish to avoid people who abuse alcohol or who encourage you to drink. Joining a sober society can help you meet like-minded people who also wish to steer clear of alcohol.

How To Drink Less At University

If you don’t want to stop drinking but you want to monitor how much alcohol you’re drinking or limit your alcohol consumption, we have some helpful tips for you.

From avoiding drinking at home to having at least two consecutive alcohol-free days per week, read on for some advice on how to drink less alcohol at university.

Don’t Drink At Home

If you want to lower the number of units you drink, or simply monitor how much you’re drinking, one of the best approaches is to stop drinking at home.

Students in the UK have a culture of ‘pre-drinking’ – which is when you drink before going to clubs or bars to save money. However, the problem with pre-drinking is that you don’t usually measure the amount of alcohol you drink.

Drinking alcohol in the pub or bar may be a more sensible option as bartenders don’t tend to ‘free pour’ – they use measuring glasses so know exactly how much alcohol they’re giving you. This means that if you ask for a single measure, you’re sure to receive a single measure.

If you do insist on drinking at home, you may wish to consider purchasing a unit measuring cup.

This will allow you to monitor how much alcohol you’re consuming, and ensure you don’t go overdo it and drink a dangerous amount of alcohol. You can take a portable unit measuring cup to parties and use it whenever you pour alcohol.

Skip The Drinking Games

It’s no secret that many students love to play drinking games. However, drinking games can be dangerous, as often, they involve drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol.

If you’re looking to limit your alcohol intake, a good place to start would be to stop participating in drinking games.

However, if you still want to enjoy the fun of drinking games, be sure to drink water between each drink, and monitor how much alcohol you’re actually consuming.

Games such as ‘beer pong’ may not involve drinking a dangerous number of alcohol units, but games such as ‘ring of fire’ which involves frequent drinking and mixing alcoholic drinks can be hazardous.

Instead of participating in games, drink slower and pace yourself. It’s also important to avoid drinking on an empty stomach, as this could have a range of adverse effects and increase the chance of alcohol poisoning.

Stop Drinking Alcohol On Weekdays

One of the best ways you can limit the amount of alcohol you drink is by limiting the number of times you go out to clubs, bars, parties, and pubs. Many students in the UK will go to numerous events per week, including on weekdays.

In student cities, many bars have special deals on certain days of the week – for example, cheap ‘doubles’ on Wednesdays, or £1 shots on Thursdays.

However, drinking more than a couple of times a week can be hazardous to your health. It can also impact your studies – you’re not going to learn much or produce quality work while nursing a hangover, are you?

To avoid developing alcohol-related health problems, as well as alcohol dependence, ensure that you have at least two days per week that you’re not drinking.

Having alcohol-free days can give your mind and body a break from alcohol, and reduce the chance of developing alcohol dependence.

If you find that this is difficult or you can’t have two alcohol-free days a week, then you likely have an alcohol problem and should seek treatment.

Likewise, if you receive alcohol cravings or alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it’s time to get help. Read on to learn more about what to do if you think you have an alcohol addiction.

What To Do If You Have An Alcohol Problem

Quitting drinking can be difficult, especially if you don’t have help. Thankfully, there is help out there for you if you wish to stop drinking alcohol.

First of all, most universities in the UK recommend that you speak to the university counsellor or your tutor if you’re experiencing personal issues – especially if it could be impacting your work.

This applies to alcohol problems too – if you have concerns about abusing alcohol, speak up to somebody you trust. We can also help.

At Help4Addiction, we can offer confidential advice and discuss your treatment options to source the right treatment plan for you and your circumstances.

Many university students that wish to stop drinking prefer to attend alcohol rehab as an outpatient so they can continue their studies. Outpatient treatment involves residing at home (or remaining in student accommodation) whilst travelling to regularly scheduled rehab sessions.

However, residential rehab is another option. At Help4Addiction, we can find private residential rehabilitation as well as NHS-operated rehab. However, it’s worth noting that NHS rehab has a huge backlog which means long waiting lists.

Contact our team today if you’re thinking of quitting alcohol and need professional help. Whether you wish to attend rehab or get in contact with support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, we can help.

We can also help if you think you have a drug addiction, whether it be an addiction to prescription medication or an addiction to illicit drugs.

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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