Alcohol is considered one of the most casual forms of substance intake within the UK and is something that is embedded in our culture.

Some people in the UK begin drinking as young as the age of 13, whether their parents are aware of this or not, and the effects of alcohol abuse are most likely known. However, there is often a blurred line between binge drinking culture, and when you may start becoming dependant on alcohol – habits like these are at risk of affecting your health.

Photographed at an underage house party.

A report in the Lancet – a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal – funded by the British Heart Foundation said, “The weekly alcohol intake should be set at 100g a week for men and women. This equates to five or six standard glasses of wine or pints of beer and is in line with UK government guidelines published in 2016.” The report also stated that there is evidence of British people drinking less, however, it is still noted that more than one in four of the UK adult population exceeds the recommended weekly guidelines.

Young people, in particular, are at a risk of becoming alcohol dependent, especially in an environment like at university, where drink culture is high and often not regulated. Although the risk is not there for everyone, alcohol dependency still needs to be considered if you’re considering that your relationship with alcohol is becoming unhealthy.

It is important to be aware of the tell-tale signs of when you should start regulating, or even take a break from drinking in general. The Lancet report also outlined what you need to ask yourself if you want to know if you are drinking too much. There are lots of signs to look out for that may indicate that you’re drinking more alcohol than is safe or healthy for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you need to drink more alcohol to get the same effect as you used to?
When talking with others, do you ever underestimate how much you actually drink?
Do you ever skip a meal because you don’t feel hungry after a few drinks?
Have you ever increased your drinking after experiencing a loss in your life?
Has a relative, friend, doctor or nurse ever said they were worried or concerned about your drinking?
Have you ever made rules to manage your drinking?
Do you find yourself taking a drink to “take the edge off”, calm your nerves, or take your mind off your problems?

If your answer to some of these questions is “yes” then you may want to think more about how much you choose to drink.

Excessive alcohol intake can drastically alter your mood when you are sober.

Addaction is a British charity founded in 1967 that helps people make important behavioural changes and provides support specifically around alcohol and drug use and mental health. They have centres up and down the country that are there to help anyone who needs more information about drinking and advice on how to gain a better relationship with alcohol. They have themselves set up in the South West, in Truro, Penzanze, Bodmin, St Austell and Redruth.

Senior communications officer for Addaction, Clare Kinsbury-Bell, noted how the charity works towards making younger people aware of how to respect alcohol and what the dangers of becoming alcohol dependent can be. She said: “In terms of young people specifically, we have Young Addaction – the alcohol and drug service for under 18s. And The Resilience Programme which we run in partnership with the Amy Winehouse Foundation.” The Amy Winehouse Foundation was set up by the singer’s father following her battle with substance abuse and her untimely death in 2011.

Addaction have centres up and down the country and a handful in the South West.

The resilience programme works with secondary schools where they educate “students, parents, and teachers about the triggers for substance misuse and what can be done to prevent it.” All of the volunteers who carry out talks and people who have overcome and recovered from their own personal issues and are now living substance-free lives. Clare said, “In Cornwall, YZUP is the name for our Young Addaction service and they also run a Mind and Body project that works with young people facing emotional issues and at risk of self-harm, alcohol or drug use.”

It is important to ensure that young people are open to talking about if they think they may be entering into an unhealthy habit, and the excuse of university life or binge drinking culture ought to be avoided. Alcohol is a depressant and after some time it can begin to affect your mental health and motivation. A vicious cycle of compensating your low mood with a drink is at risk if you start becoming dependent on alcohol to help your mood.

Clare said, “At Addaction our main priority for young people is education. We want to see young people aware and educated about what drugs are out there (alcohol is a drug as well) and to know the risks before they take them, how to minimise risks if they chose to take them, and how to get support from us if they need to.”

The environment of a university could start off an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Often people aren’t aware of what the national guidelines for consuming alcohol are, something that people should be aware of. The government set new alcohol guidelines in 2016. Guidelines for men and women are now the same and recommend that:

·         You should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week
·         You spread the 14 units over at least three days of the week
·         You try to have regular alcohol free days

The blurred lines on alcohol dependency are capable of being diminished if young people are made aware of what to look at when considering their relationship with the substance. Although most of the time it is just young people enjoying themselves, there is a safer and sensible way to consume alcohol.

If you feel you want to talk to someone about substance use, you can contact Addaction through their website.

Images by Kieran Kalis.