Drinking socially or dependently?

When weekend fun becomes a day-to-day problem for university students

University is a place of new experiences, both academically and socially. Many students starting university have little to no knowledge around alcohol consumption. Most university cultures may influence students to drink but it is important that students, from first year to upper years, be aware of the risks surrounding alcohol consumption as well as the reasons behind why they are drinking. These reasons can be related to stress, social norms or the environment you are in, as well as a variety of other reasons.

Most students, at some point during their time at university, will consume alcohol in large volumes. Some are more at risk of developing a dependence on alcohol. “Dependence” is the state of needing or being reliant upon something or someone for support in order to function or survive, according to the World Health Organization. When applied to alcohol, the term implies a need for repeated doses to feel good.

Knowing what factors can put you at risk of developing an alcohol dependence is important. According to the American Addiction Centers, being male, having a close relative with a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, and using tobacco or cannabis products are factors linked to a higher risk of developing a dependence on alcohol.

Understanding the reasons behind your own drinking is important for your overall well-being. Drinking alcohol in a social context is one thing, but finding yourself drinking when under stress or after a bad day might be a warning sign that there is a problem. Helpful coping mechanisms can include listening to music, exercising, practicing yoga, doing breathing exercises and spending time with family and friends, all of which can have a positive effect on the body. In comparison, alcohol acts as a depressant to the brain and other nerve tissues, meaning that some parts of your brain that normally control judgment and instincts are being suppressed.

Alcohol consumption among university students has been normalized for many years and continues to be part of university culture. The Keep It Social campaign identifies many ways for students to reduce their risks during a night out. Knowing what’s in your drink, having a plan, looking out for your friends, pacing yourself and setting limits are all things you can do to stay safe.

Overall, during a night out, it is important to pace yourself and not to pressure others into drinking. There is nothing wrong with going out with friend for a night and not consuming alcohol.

You can learn more about the Keep It Social campaign on the Mt. A student wellness web page, or email wellness@mta.ca about support for alcohol dependence and addiction.

Emilie Comfort
Emilie Comfort is a Contributor to the Argosy, as well as the Mount Allison health intern for the 2018-19 Academic year.