What are you drinking?

Summer means one thing for lots of students – it’s time to let your hair down, let loose and party hard! As we all know, no party is complete unless the alcohol is flowing – or is it? When you hear that 25 people die in Scotland every week as a direct result of their drinking, it might be time to think again before you reach for the bottle opener… 

Just one more… You can’t get drunk on THAT… It’s harmless…

If alcohol has started to make an appearance in your social life, chances are you’ll have thought or heard all of these things in the past. Drinking’s just a bit of fun, right? The powers that be wouldn’t let us get drunk if it was bad for you, would they?

Doctors recommend that adult men drink no more than three to four units of alcohol a day, whereas for women it’s two to three, with two days a week alcohol-free. You can enjoy alcohol in moderation, but that’s the thing – it’s got to be in moderation. This is something which Scotland, a nation of binge drinkers, fails to understand.

BINGE CULTURE

Binge drinking is when a person drinks heavily in a short period of time with a view to get drunk. For some Scots, drinking isn’t just a leisurely glass of wine over dinner– it’s about getting trashed. With one in three Scots aged 13 binging on a weekly basis, it’s definitely a problem.

“I think the key things that have happened over the last 30 to 40 years is that alcohol has become more affordable – it’s cheaper for people to buy,” explains Jennifer Curran, Alcohol Focus Scotland’s Head of Policy, Research and Communications. “It’s available to buy in more places than it was 30 years ago too, and it’s more heavily marketed than it has been at any
other time.”

The Scottish government is starting to take steps to curb Scotland’s drink problem. The recent minimum pricing bill, where one unit of alcohol is priced at 50p, is a move in the right direction. However, after years of cheap drink and an unhealthy attitude towards alcohol, Scotland’s relationship with booze is having a huge impact on the country’s wellbeing – hospitals are treating, on average, four patients with alcohol- related illnesses or injuries every hour.

GONE TOO SOON

At best, a night on the lash will leave you with a headache. At worst, alcohol can kill. When songbird Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home in the summer of 2011, people quickly jumped to conclusions. Her battle with drugs had been well-documented in the global press over the years and her health had suffered. However, at the time of her death, friends say she’d been clean from drugs for months and the coroner’s report backed this up – it was alcohol poisoning, proven with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit, which killed the talented singer at the age of 27.

Amy’s death was tragic. What’s even more tragic is the fact that 25 people die every WEEK in Scotland because of alcohol. They might choke on their own vomit, suffer liver failure or deteriorate slowly from throat or mouth cancer brought on by their boozing. If you think this is just what happens to people who’ve abused alcohol for years, you can think again – young people suffer too. A staggering 10,000 young people end up in hospital every year because of alcohol.

Drink doesn’t just affect your health. If you’ve ever had a drink or two, you’ll know of the more instant effects. Your behaviour changes, you’re more confident and sometimes you’re like a completely different person – which might explain why 77% of Scotland’s young offenders were drunk at the time of their arrest.

REMEMBER THE LAW

Let’s not forget that you have to be 18 to buy drink. Jennifer explains: “Research is beginning to come out showing that the minimum age of 18 exists for a reason. Teenager’s bodies are still developing, the brain and the body is still developing, meaning that younger children and teenagers are far more vulnerable to the harm caused by alcohol. Alcohol is a toxic substance – it is a drug. We need to make sure that we as a society protect young people as much as possible from that.” If you’re under 18, it might be time to start thinking about your health rather than worrying about the police pouring your drink in the gutter.

Alcohol may well be legal, but it’s addictive, it’s dangerous and it can have a very serious impact on your physical and mental health. What may have started as a few drinks with your pals could become a very serious problem, whether it’s on your health, your happiness or it turns into an addiction. If you’re worried about your drinking, or the alcohol habits of someone you know, help is out there. Your GP is the best source for information on support services in your area. Some alcohol services even have special projects for young people struggling with alcohol or for children whose parents have alcohol issues. If you’re worried, don’t be afraid to speak out. Check the Alcohol Focus Scotland site for details of projects in your area.

So when you’re at a festival this summer, at a party or out clubbing and you’re considering just one more drink even though you’re already seeing double, stop and think about it. There are times when keeping up with your mates just isn’t worth the risk.

For more help and information

Alcohol Focus Scotland
www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk

Drinkaware
www.drinkaware.co.uk

Alcohol: the facts

Booze has lots of horrible side effects beyond a sore head the morning after. So just what can overindulging in alcohol do to you health? Here’s a list of illnesses linked to too much drinking…

Tuberculosis
Mouth, nasopharynx, other pharynx and oropharynx cancer
Oesophageal cancer
Colon and rectum cancer
Liver cancer
Female breast cancer
Diabetes mellitus
Alcohol use disorders
Unipolar depressive disorders
Epilepsy
Hypertensive heart disease
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD)
Ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke
Conduction disorders and other dysrhythmias
Lower respiratory infections (pneumonia)
Cirrhosis of the liver

(Courtesy of Alcohol Focus Scotland) 

Source Summer 2012

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