Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol

University can be the best years of your life, made up of a whirlwind of parties, fun and some studying thrown in.

It can be difficult to balance out a social life with essays, coursework and exams, and students often feel like they’re burning the candle at both ends. As with everything at university, there’s a balance to be struck. While moderate amounts of alcohol can play a part in the good times, when consumed in excessive amounts it can have a negative effect on work and could lead to unexpected and unwanted consequences.

Key Issues

Student life is frequently portrayed in the media and popular culture as one big party. From the mayhem of fresher’s week through to the celebratory graduation ball, 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 (3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 for women). The National Union of Students estimates that the average student spends £675 a year on socialising.

Enjoying a few drinks is fine, it can help some people to ease the nerves of meeting new friends but remember it’s not essential to have a good time.

Caught up in the excitement of a night out, how you might feel the next day is often the furthest thing from your mind, but writing an essay or revising for an exam is difficult enough without the extra pressure of a hangover dulling your concentration and motivation.

Drinking too much could also lead to taking unnecessary risks with your personal safety, like taking an unlicensed taxi or walking home alone. Being drunk can increase your chances of getting into trouble when you’re out. The British Crime Survey 2008 revealed that students have the highest risk of being a victim of violent crime compared with other occupations. The best piece of advice is to stay with your friends and know your limits.

The Effects of Alcohol

  • Head – Loss of memory, poor co-ordination and a tendency towards aggressive behaviour and mental health can be negatively affected.
  • Body – In the short term, binges can lead to alcohol poisoning or hospitalisation. Long term effects can include liver disease, cancer and stroke.
  • Skin – Alcohol dehydrates the skin, making your skin dry and prone to spots.
  • Weight – Alcoholic drinks have a high calorie count and late night takeaways can also make you put on weight. Did you know there are 130 calories in a medium (175ml) glass of wine and around 200 in a standard pint of beer?
  • Hangover – Feeling and looking sluggish or tired the next day.
  • Relationships – Drunken behaviour can impact on the people around you and drinking makes you more likely to get angry or upset. It can also make you more vulnerable to risky behaviour, such as unsafe sex.
  • Education – Excessive alcohol consumption and all of the above can impact on your academic  performance.

Tips for smarter drinking

  • Remember, you don’t have to drink to have a great night out. Find an activity or join a society that doesn’t revolve around drinking. For example, joining a drama society could mean spending your evenings down the local theatre instead of the pub – a great alternative.
  • If you know you are going to be drinking alcohol make sure you eat something first to line your stomach.
  • Drink plenty of water and soft drinks throughout the night to keep hydrated and slow down your drinking. Perhaps you could have a soft drink after every alcoholic one?
  • Don’t drink every day. If you’ve had a heavy session, give your liver a break and take a couple of days off the booze.
  • Decide on a budget before you go out to avoid being tempted to overspend on cheap drinks. Or only take cash and leave your bank card at home.
  • Always plan how you’ll get home from a night out and never walk home by yourself. Stick with your mates and split the cost of a taxi from a reputable firm.
  • Watch out for drink spiking. Keep an eye on your drink and never leave it unattended. Be careful if accepting drinks from strangers.

Sometimes drink can become a problem and you may feel your drinking is getting out of control or have concerns about someone you know. There is support available and help if you need it. Pop into the AUSA Student Advice Centre in Johnston hall  for more details or for more information on alcohol visit www.drinkaware.co.uk

I don’t drink alcohol!

Some students find the culture of alcohol in Scotland difficult. There’s lots of activities to do that don’t involve alcohol, and many other students who don’t like to drink. If you don’t want to drink then don’t let anyone pressure you into it. AUSA is always looking at non drinking events. If you have any ideas, email them to us at ausaadvice@abdn.ac.uk we would love to hear from you!

ID Offences

Previously regarded as nothing more than a bit of a challenge, it is actually now a criminal offence for anyone under 18 years of age to use a borrowed, or falsely obtained identity document, e.g. passport/driving license, to try and gain entry into a licensed premises such as a late-night bar, nightclub or casino.  The Door Staff (Bouncers) in Aberdeen have been trained to carry out strict checks and refer all such incidents to the Police.

If caught, the Police will be called and the document you handed over for the purposes of identification will be seized.  It will not be returned to you, as it is now regarded as evidence of a crime.  The police will interview you and you will be charged with the offence.  If you have been using someone else's ID, the Police are duty bound to trace and interview that person as well, and they also face being charged.

You will now have a criminal offence recorded against you.  This offence is regarded as a crime of dishonesty, like theft, so it has the potential to jeopardise your place at university and damage your future prospects for employment.

There is no doubt that students who are under 18 years of age face something of a dilemma prior to their 18th birthday. Your older peers will no doubt be frequenting these premises and you may tempted, or even encouraged, you to join them.  Please consider your position very carefully before committing to something which could land you in serious trouble.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol is an addictive drug and people who become addicted are said to be alcohol dependent. Nobody really knows why some people become alcohol dependent and others don't, but your risk is thought to be influenced by the interplay of a number of factors including:

  • availability of alcohol and social acceptability - countries where alcohol is freely available and socially accepted have higher alcohol dependency rates
  • life circumstances - traumatic life experiences can increase the likelihood of alcohol dependence
  • genetics - several genes linked with alcohol dependence have been identified and it often runs in families, though this may reflect attitudes towards drinking
  • personality - people who are impulsive, anxious or prone to depression may be more likely to develop problems with alcohol


People who live alone, especially men, are particularly at risk of alcohol dependency, as are people who live alone with one parent, and students of both sexes. However, it's important to note that many people have some or all of the risk factors mentioned above and yet are not alcohol dependent.

Am I alcohol dependent?

One sign of alcohol dependency is a high tolerance to alcohol. People who drink heavily get used to alcohol and need to drink more and more in order to achieve the same effect. Other possible signs include needing a drink in the morning, and getting withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking suddenly, such as trembling, jitteriness and sweating.

Doctors sometimes use simple questionnaires to assess whether someone is alcohol dependent. One of these, known as the CAGE questionnaire, consists of four simple questions:

  • Have you ever thought of Cutting down?
  • Have you ever been Annoyed by people telling you to cut down?
  • Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking?
  • Do you need an eye-opener in the morning to get you going?

If your answer is yes to two or more of these questions, it's very likely that you are alcohol dependent.  Please feel free to drop in past the AUSA Student Advice Centre for more information.

Drugs

Whether you’ve taken drugs, are thinking of taking them, or are just curious and want to know more about them, knowing the facts is one of the most important things.

Knowledge gives you the power to make positive decisions for yourself, and to help other people when they don’t know what to do.

Some people think using drugs can be fun, but it can bring more than its fair share of problems.

Drugs can cause problems with your studies, parents, your friends and your health. You risk getting addicted and even sudden death, not to mention the stupid things you might do when you’re under the influence.

Most drugs are illegal. If you get caught with them you risk getting arrested and prosecuted.

The best way to avoid these problems is not to use drugs at all. But if you’re tempted, you need to be aware of what you might be letting yourself in for.

Don’t feel pressured into taking drugs. It’s nobody’s choice but your own. Know the facts and be fully aware of the consequences.

The dangers of taking drugs

Drugs are not all the same. Different drugs have different affects and dangers associated with them.

Sedatives (alcohol, heroin, tranquilisers) - slow down the way your body and brain function, and can lead to physical dependence.

Stimulants (cocaine, crack and ecstasy) - give a rush of energy and making people more alert, but can produce panic attacks and are particularly dangerous for people with heart or blood pressure problems.

Hallucinogens (LSD and magic mushrooms and to a lesser extent cannabis) – these alter the way the user feels, hears, tasters or smells and can lead to erratic behaviour or produce disturbing experiences.

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – ‘Legal Highs’ NPS generally fall into four categories, Products branded and designed to attract the attention of young people and existing users which give no indication of their actual contents, Named and specific substances designed to mimic the effects of controlled and illegal drugs, Substances related to medicines, Herbal and fungal materials or their extracts

Many illegal drugs have other substances mixed in with them, these can change the effect of the drug and contribute to the dangers. For further information on drugs and their effects visit www.knowthescore.info, www.mycrew.org.uk/  or www.drugsmeter.com

Drugs and the law

Not only do drugs affect your health, but it can also affect your criminal record. Most drugs are illegal, and if you are caught abusing them, or supplying them, then you are at risk of facing legal action. The Misuse of Drugs Act states that both the POSSESSION and SUPPLY of controlled drugs is illegal. You should be fully aware of the legal implication of possessing, supplying and taking drugs. Remember: Having a criminal record can make it difficult for you to get a job or visa if you want to travel abroad, it may also affect your place at University.

AUSA in no way condones drug taking, however it would be foolish to assume that this never happens. Should you find yourself in a position where drugs are, or have been taken, it is important to know what to do.

Avoid taking drugs on your own- its best to take them with people you rely on.  Let them you what you’ve taken.  If you get into difficulty, friends can help.

Don’t inject- this is the most dangerous way to take drugs, especially if you don’t know how to do it properly.  It is easier to overdose and you risk infection and contracting diseases through sharing equipment.  If you do choose to inject, be sure to find out how to do it properly and never ever share equipment.  Please visit Drugs Action via their website (www.drugsaction.co.uk), telephone (01224 594700) or by popping in to 7 Hadden Street.

Never crush tablets to inject them- this will likely lead to infection- the safest way to take any drug in tablet form is to swallow it.  In powder form, the drug is safest snorted.  Note that snorting also has drawbacks as heavy use results in your inner and upper nostrils rotting.

Don’t combine drugs- often people counter the effects of uppers by taking downers, or they take a combination to make the overall effect more intense.  Mixing drugs increases health risks and means you have less control over your body and how it feels.  This applies to both legal and illegal drugs.  If in doubt, contact your GP or drugs organization.

Stay cool and hydrated- if you choose to take uppers like ecstasy whilst in a club then ensure that you are close to ventilation and drink plenty of water- try about a pint an hour steadily.  Take rests and cool off regularly.

Don’t take drugs when you’re feeling anxious- when you’re feeling under the weather, takings drugs can make you feel worse either immediately or as you recover.  Using drugs to escape your problems often leads to dependency issues.

Buy drugs from a reliable source- most street drugs have been mixed with other substances.  If you are unsure about strength or content, try a small amount first to check it’s effects.

For more information, please visit www.knowthescore.info.

There are loads of people who can help you if you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, and the sooner you seek help the better. Your own GP or Health Service is a good place to start, or anyone who you feel you can trust and talk to. You can also approach the AUSA Student Advice Centre or contact the local helpline run by Drugs Action on 01224 594700.