When you think of an all-round university experience, a few things typically spring to mind. The first is the transition into a new chapter of life. Moving away from home to what will likely be new, unfamiliar surroundings and living with people you’ve never met. The second is the very reason you’re there in the first place, the academics. A brand new, independent style of learning shaped around your future career goals and aspirations. The third is, of course, the student experience.
It’s no secret that the typical student experience can place a great deal of pressure on young people to embrace a campus culture that, in no uncertain terms, glorifies drinking and, more often than not, involves drugs, too. The drinking culture at university is often seen as just another part of the social side of student life, and is very much seen as part of the all-round university experience.
For some, it’s an essential part of getting to know others. Meeting new people can be awkward and challenging, and partaking in such a culture can often make social situations easier for those who tend to struggle with it. Some may see it as a stress reliever, while others partake just to fit in.
The recommended maximum alcohol intake per week is 14 units, however, students across the UK average over 20 units a week. It’s certainly no secret that drinking to excess and taking illegal drugs for recreational purposes can have long-term effects on the brain, as well as on our physical and mental well-being – and young people are amongst some of the most vulnerable to these effects. With that in mind, should more action be taken against normalising the prevalent drink and drugs culture at university? And what if you’re a student who doesn’t want to get involved at all?
In theory, preaching the potential harm involved in this aspect of student life so much so that it grinds to a halt would be an ideal way to put an end to it. However, the information is already very much out there, and is very much accessible. Not to mention that, at the end of the day, such activities will continue regardless. Perhaps a more realistic approach to the drink and drugs culture at university is to provide better information and advice on what to expect, what you can do to better protect your physical and mental well-being, and what to do if you don’t want to get involved.
What are the risks involved?
It goes without saying that there are a number of obvious short-term and long-term risks involved in drinking to excess and taking drugs whilst at university. If you’re a student partaking in this side of campus culture, it’s important to make yourself aware of said risks, so as to better understand what to expect and what steps you can take to better protect your physical and mental well-being.
Along with short-term side effects such as nausea, dehydration, poor decision making, and memory loss – frequent binge drinking and drug use can in fact lead to a host of long-term health complications, including liver disease and heart problems. However, these effects ultimately depend on a range of factors, including the amount of substances you consume, how quickly you consume them, your height and weight, your gender, your medical history, all to name but a few.
An obvious point to make, though nevertheless an important one, is the fact that the use of drugs is illegal and that in itself is very much a risk to you and those around you. As mentioned, it certainly doesn’t stop a lot of students using, but it is a point that should be taken with great consideration.
There are also the less obvious risks involved, those that may not have such a drastic impact on your health but can still very much effect your life at university. There’s doing things you might regret whilst under the influence, dealing with housemates or close friends who get so intoxicated they make themselves ill, and of course, missing classes because you’re too hungover, resulting in you falling behind with your studies. Though these less obvious risks may seem insignificant at first glance, they can eventually snowball into circumstances that can have a negative effect on you.
All in all, it’s not uncommon to come across drink and drugs during your time at university, and it’s all too tempting to join in. That said, informing yourself of the risks involved may help you to better understand your own limits and help you to decide what you personally can and can’t deal with.
What if you don’t want to get involved?
For many new students, the glorification of drink and drugs on campus tends to be one of the biggest concerns about going to university in the first place, and understandably so. Though it is considered normal for new students to party their way through Freshers’ Week, and no one really bats an eyelid at students drinking on a weekday afternoon – that aspect of student life certainly isn’t for everyone, and it can actually put new students off the idea of furthering their education.
Truth be told, there can be an overwhelming pressure to partake just to fit in. However, you can say no. You have every right to refuse something that you do not want, or that makes you uncomfortable. Those who pressure you into it are certainly not the type of people you want to associate yourself with for the next three years at university. Real friends will be understanding.
As well, there is so much more to student life than drink and drugs. Although night life plays a big part in the social side of student life, you will find a plethora of other activities to do if you don’t drink or feel uncomfortable about drugs. Instead, you can join a club or society that appeals to your interests, enjoy two for one cinema nights (or, if you prefer to stay in, order a takeout and watch a movie with your flatmates!), take up a new hobby, take weekend trips – the list is endless.
There’s no denying that the drink and drugs culture at university is fairly common, but remember, drinking and partying is certainly not the be all and end all of being a student. If it isn’t your scene, don’t feel pressured into it. You certainly shouldn’t allow it to put you off furthering your education, because your university experience is individual to you, and it can be exactly how you make it.