Approaching alcohol with caution

Students should be aware of the risk of alcoholism when choosing to drink

University is regarded as a major stepping stone in the lives of young adults; its goal is to shape us into more educated, knowledgeable people with the capacity and potential to accomplish great things. This goal is within reach, but getting there will not always be smooth sailing. This goes for both the academic and social aspects of university: a key part of university is the social life, which often involves alcohol.

How you choose to approach alcohol consumption within these social situations, which you may be unprepared for, may define how you approach drinking on a more general basis later on in life. The university mentality towards alcohol consumption tends to promote a type of binge-drinking that is seemingly excusable because “we need these experiences to get them out of our system before it’s too late” and “we learn by doing.” Learning your limitations by having that one bad experience and making mistakes may not be a bad thing – we are only human, after all, and how we learn from our mistakes is what matters. Nevertheless, when it comes to alcohol consumption, there are certain considerations we should make before immersing ourselves in heavy-drinking situations that are often associated with university life.

One of the most important factors to consider is our family history. We shouldn’t all approach alcohol with the same nonchalant attitude. By knowing if alcoholism is a persistent trait in your family, you can be more prepared and more cautious when it comes to your own consumption. A predisposition to alcoholism can also be related to your age and your family’s drinking culture. Research done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that beginning alcohol consumption before the age of 15 increases the likelihood of developing alcoholism by four times. Knowing this can help you to be more responsible about consuming by giving you a better understanding of the responsibility that comes with the choice to drink.

Next to consider are predispositions to mental illness, as well as the consequences of having an addictive personality. Alcohol shouldn’t be used to relieve emotional strain, even if it may seem tempting. This “way out” can become the “solution,” but it is important to keep in mind that this solution is only temporary.

This leads to two final points on friends and drinking patterns. You are the company you keep, and the drinking patterns pursued by your friend groups are going to be major influences on your own drinking habits. Being away at university, friends are the main basis for social interaction as well as emotional support. Therefore, we must choose wisely with whom we associate and be considerate of the fact that a friend’s drinking tolerance or desire to drink may not be the same as your own.

Despite my tone thus far, alcohol is not the enemy. It’s your choice whether or not you drink and how much. Your choices are part of what define you as an individual, but alcohol, your drinking patterns and the extent to which you choose to consume should not be your defining features.

At the end of the day, or rather, at the end of your time in university, you want to finish with a degree and your head held high as you witness the many doors to opportunities opening before you – not with an unhealthy relationship with or dependency on alcohol. To achieve this goal, it is important to think critically about your motivations and choices in regards to alcohol. On that note, party safely!

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