Hospital admissions due to alcohol related problems are extremely high as excessive, episodic underage drinking is still prevalent in many parts of the country. In addition, a rise in young people applying for university paired with the unhealthy university drinking culture equals bad news for the UK’s alcohol problem. But has the UK become so desensitised to alcohol that addiction is ignored, even normalised?
Alcoholism is stigmatised with an association of old men passed out on a park bench, but the reality of alcohol addiction is much closer to home. Early signs of alcohol addiction according to various alcohol rehabilitation sites include asking yourself these sorts of questions:
Do you regularly experience black outs or short term memory loss after drinking heavily?
Do you make excuses to drink such as to relax, deal with stress or escape situations that make you unhappy?
Do you have feelings of guilt or regret after drinking?
Do you choose drinking over other responsibilities and obligations?
The scary thing is that most university students have probably said yes to at least one of these questions if not more. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an alcoholic, it just demonstrates our unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Even if it might be difficult to admit, if not confronted it can begin the pathway down a very slippery slope.
One story on the TV programme ‘999 Whats Your Emergency’ really struck me about an ex-dental student now living on benefits with an alcohol addiction so extreme he drinks just to feel sober, an addiction he said started unfolding whilst he was still at university, meaning he had to drop out just before his final year.
In the UK we are all aware of the boozy stereotype that us Brits are labelled with. Not a day goes by where I don’t see a sarcastic meme about alcohol dependancy, Snapchat stories of drunken antics or a Facebook update of someone jetting off to Magaluf or Ibiza for a boozy holiday with the lads. Alcohol is often seen as being synonymous with happiness and for lots of people, the scale of how drunk you were often correlates to how good the night was. It’s not uncommon for people to feel pressured into drinking more than they’d like to, especially at the start of university, just to fit in with the people around them. Going down to the pub with your mates on a nice summer evening or “cracking open a cold one with the boys” is harmless and great fun, but in a country with a culture that revolves so much around alcohol, it can be difficult to even notice you have a problem, let alone admit to it.
Alcohol is an ugly, utterly devastating substance that can ruin lives if misused. We need to open up serious and honest conversations about alcohol, and not brush off early signs of addiction and dependancy as “normal”. If someone talks to you about alcohol problems, or if you feel you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol yourself, don’t be afraid to talk to someone or abstain for a while. If alcohol is affecting your mental health or your friendships and relationships, it’s time to start asking questions.