What is binge drinking?• The NHS definition of binge drinking is drinking heavily in a short space of time to get drunk or feel the effects of alcohol.• The amount of alcohol someone needs to drink in a session for it to be classed as ‘bingeing’ is less clearly defined but the marker used by the NHS and National Office of Statistics is drinking more than double the daily recommended units of alcohol in one session• The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine)
What are some of the effects of binge drinking? Getting very drunk can affect your physical and mental health:• Accidents and falls are common because being drunk affects your balance and co-ordination. You’re also more likely to suffer head, hand and facial injuries. Binge drinking has also been linked to self- harm .• In extreme cases, you could die. Overdosing on alcohol can stop you breathing or stop your heart, or you could choke on your vomit. These deaths are more common among 16–34-year-olds.• Binge drinking can affect your mood and your memory and in the longer term can lead to serious mental health problems.• More commonly, binge drinking can lead to anti-social, aggressive and violent behavior.
Alcohol is a factor in:• One in three (30%) sexual offences• One in three (33%) burglaries• One in two (50%) street crimes.
• Binge drinking is most common among 16–24- year-olds , and is more common among men than women. The General Lifestyle Survey 2008 showed that 21% of men and 14% of women drank more than double the daily unit guidelines on at least one day in the previous week.• Binge drinking when you’re young can become a habit. Studies have shown that those who drink a lot in their teens and early 20s are up to twice as likely as light drinkers to be binge drinking 25 years later.
How can you tell if you’re a binge drinker?Even if you dont drink alcohol every day, you couldbe a binge drinker if you regularly drink:• to get drunk• more than the daily unit guidelines in a single session• quickly.If you find it hard to stop drinking once you havestarted, you could also have a problem with bingedrinking and possibly alcohol dependence.
Dealing with a hangover• A hangover can range in strength and intensity and vary from person to person, but it usually involves a banging headache, sickness, dizziness, dehydration, mild diarrhea, tiredness and weakness.• A hangover can also leave you struggling to concentrate, irritable and sensitive to light for a prolonged period after your last drink
What causes a hangover?• The principal cause is ethanol – the alcohol in your drinks. It is a toxic chemical that works in the body as a diuretic (which means it makes you pee more, and a result become dehydrated). This is one of the main causes of the headache, dry mouth, dizziness and constant nausea. Your hangover eases as the body turns the ethanol into a less toxic chemical. • The other factor that affects a hangover is the type of drink you have been downing. Dark drinks contain substances (congeners) that tend to make hangovers worse. So does mixing drinks.
What precautions can you take to prevent a hangover?• keep in mind the governments advice that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men and 2-3 units of alcohol for women• if you are drinking at home it’s even harder to keep track of what you are drinking. Home measures are frequently generous• Avoiding wine glasses the size of gold fish bowls in favour of smaller glasses is an easy way to make sure you are not pouring half a bottle with each drink.
• Try not to drink on an empty stomach; eat something – preferably carbohydrates - before you start drinking. The food will help slow the body’s absorption of the alcohol.• Avoid getting into rounds because it makes it harder to control how much you drink.• Stick to clear drinks (that don’t contain congeners that can worsen the hangover).• Drink plenty of water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks.• Your body takes about one hour to process each unit of alcohol. Consider stopping drinking well before the end of the evening, so the process can begin.
What can you do to treat the symptoms of a hangover?• Drink as much water as you can before going to bed and keep more by the bed to drink if you wake in the night. Continue drinking plenty of water the next day.• Have some fresh juice to give yourself a vitamin boost.• Take a painkiller – a soluble one is good for a headache and gentle on the stomach.• Take an antacid to settle your stomach.• Try a rehydration treatment sachet – they replace lost minerals and salt.
• Avoid caffeine (tea or coffee or energy drinks) these may give you a slight temporary lift, but they may also dehydrate you further.• Eat something – bananas and kiwis are a good source of potassium (something you lose with the diuretic effect of alcohol).• Go for a gentle stroll if you feel able and get some fresh air and light on the face.• Avoid hair of the dog – it only delays the problem. Falling into the habit of attempting to drink off hangovers can be seen as one of the first signs that you are becoming dependent on alcohol.• Get plenty of rest and relaxation, take a break from alcohol
How alcohol affects your appearance• Over indulging on alcohol can affect your physical appearance the next day and in the long term.• Alcohol is fattening. There are around 125 calories in a medium-sized (175ml) glass of wine; 500+ in a bottle. A vodka and coke or gin and tonic is 120 calories• Alcohol affects your sleep and your skin.• After a night of drinking your skin looks pale, grey and tired. Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists explains: “Alcohol dehydrates your body generally, including the skin, which is your body’s largest organ. This happens every time you drink. “Alcohol is also thought to deprive the skin of certain vital vitamins and nutrients,”
• Drinking more than you should over time can have much more permanent, detrimental effects on your skin.• Rosacea, a skin disorder that starts with a tendency to blush and flush easily and can eventually lead to facial disfigurement, is linked to alcohol.• Alcohol can also cause your face to look bloated and puffy.• The toxins in alcohol contribute to cellulite• Hungover people dont smell too good either; the liver metabolises most alcohol, but five to 10 percent leaves the body straight through your breath, sweat and urine.
Staying safe at uni• ‘For most students, university is the first time they haven’t had to worry what their parents think about their drinking. There’s a bit of peer pressure to drink too, to fit in. That can add up to heavy drinking, and dangerous situations sometimes.’ Vice President of Support and Advice at Glasgow Caledonian University Student Union.
• Staying within the daily unit guidelines means youd be more likely to have your wits about you, and be able to spot dangerous situations• The more drunk you are, the more likely you are to do something risky.• A survey conducted by the women’s magazine, Company showed that 29% of respondents had lost keys, money and other valuables during a drunken night out, while one in ten had been escorted home by a stranger.• Keeping track of what you’re drinking also means you’ll know if your drink’s been spiked• planning is another key to staying safe when out.
• Always know how you’re getting home, and arrange to go with a friend. If you’re getting a taxi, pre-book it and use a licensed cab so you aren’t left stranded. Make sure your mobile phone is charged and has credit, and keep the money you need to get home separate from the rest so you don’t accidentally spend it.• Initiation ceremonies – where new students are made to drink heavily to ‘initiate’ them into a university club or society What can start off as a bit of fun can quickly turn dangerous.
Key issues effecting students• Student life is frequently portrayed in the media and popular culture as one big party. Alcohol seems to have become synonymous with university• Research shows that over half (52%) of male students and nearly half (43%) of female students drink more than the government’s daily unit guidelines• The National Union of Students estimates that the average student spends £675 a year on “socialising”.• The British Crime Survey 2008 revealed that students have the highest risk of being a victim of violent crime compared with other occupations.
Sex, Alcohol and Students• Too much alcohol might well lower your inhibitions giving you that added confidence boost, but it can also impair your judgment too.• Make some plans to help you stick to your limit. Remember, if you keep to the governments daily unit guidelines you should be able to keep your wits about you enough to fend off that drunk, lecherous classmate.• Drunk sex can also be rubbish sex. It’s worth bearing in mind that alcohol makes it more difficult for men to get an erection, and can decrease the intensity of your orgasm, if you manage to achieve one at all , for both men and women. Stay sober and the chances are it’ll be a better experience.• All the temptations of student life are still there, and it can be difficult. Too much alcohol can lead to cheating, and a lot of hurt feelings.• In a survey of 16-24-year-olds by Youthnet nearly a third (32%) of those interviewed said they had a one night stand they regretted because they were drunk, making for an embarrassing morning after.• n the same survey nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents said they had been home with a stranger after drinking, and 17% had woken up somewhere without being able to remember how they got there.
Keep your finances at uni with nights out• The temptation to spend your cash on nights out is never far away. When you see that first student loan payment sitting in your bank account, it looks like loads of money.• But even with cheap deals on drinks in the student union, your spending on going out can soon add up. Socialising costs students an average of £675 a year, making it their fourth-biggest weekly outgoing, even ahead of books.• It’s not just buying drinks you have to worry about when you’re out. There are taxis, entry fees to nightclubs, and food too.• keeping an eye on your outgoings is important. Research has shown that eight out of 10 students don’t keep track of their finances.• There are several online budget planners that can help with this, including Uniaid’s Student Calculator, www.studentcalculator.org.uk.
Alcohol and aggression• Around 23,000 alcohol-related incidents such as street fights, bar brawls, breaches of the peace and drunk and disorderly conduct take place in the UK every week. More than half of all violent crime is committed by offenders who are drunk and more than a third happens in and around pubs and clubs.• Alcohol also affects the way we process information. When we’ve been drinking we’re more likely to misinterpret other people’s behaviour and misread social cues. This could be the reason why so many drunken fights start over little more than a ‘dirty look’.
References• NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries, alcohol misuse. http://www.cks.nhs.uk/patient_information_leaflet/Alcohol_misuse• NHS Choices – common questions about alcohol http://www.drinking.nhs.uk/questions/common-questions/• Ibid• NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries, alcohol misuse. http://www.cks.nhs.uk/patient_information_leaflet/Alcohol_misuse• NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries, alcohol misuse. http://www.cks.nhs.uk/patient_information_leaflet/Alcohol_misuse• Binge Drinking and Public Health – a briefing from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. July 2005. www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_offices/post/pubs2005.cfm• ‘Young people who binge drink are likely to continue into adulthood’, BMJ, http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/330/7495/809-a• Booze and you, Company magazine, December 2003, pp 94-96
• Reported levels of alcohol consumption and binge drinking within the UK undergraduate student population over the last 25 years. Oxford Journal of Alcohol and alcoholism. http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/37/2/109• NUS Student Experience Report 2008, http://www.nus.org.uk/PageFiles/4017/NUS_StudentExperienceReport.pd f• British Crime Survey 2008, http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs08/hosb0708chap3.pdf• NHS choices: Know your limits: http://units.nhs.uk/mythsDebunked.html• NHS choices: Know your limits: http://units.nhs.uk/mythsDebunked.html• Youthnet 2009, ‘Sex Factor: Young People and Sexual Health’.• Independent Advisory Group on Sex and HIV 2007, ‘Sex, Drugs, Alcohol and Young People’ p.22.• NUS Student Experience Report 2008 http://www.nus.org.uk/PageFiles/4017/NUS_StudentExperienceReport.pd f• Credit Action, Debt facts and figures 2006 http://www.creditaction.org.uk/assets/PDF/statistics/2006/november- 2006.pdf
• Richardson, A. and Budd, T. (2003) Alcohol, crime and disorder: a study of young adults, Home Office Research Study 263, London.• www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/r214.pdf