Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking
Studies show that students are more likely to drink, smoke and take drugs than the general population.
Alcohol is a big part of university life. Cheap drinks, socials and student nights out are all the opportunities presented to you to go out and get drunk. However, getting drunk regularly or even drinking excessively on occasion can be damaging to your health.
Short term, alcohol can impair your academic performance (as you are more likely to miss lectures) and put you at immediate risk from such things from date rape to car crashes. You are also more likely to have unprotected sex. Long term, it can cause liver disease, an increased risk of a heart attack, weight gain and a number of different cancers.
The best thing to avoid the risks of alcohol is to know your limits. If you keep waking up the next day not remembering what you’ve done, it's time to rethink your alcohol intake. Remember not to mix drinks, and try to alternate your drinks with a soft drink or water so not to get to drunk too quickly. Always have a meal before going out, and know how you will be getting home.
You can use the NHS Alcohol tracker to check how much you're drinking, or the Unit Calculator to see how many units you're racking up.
There is more useful information and tips to help cut down available here.
As with alcohol, there can be a lot of social pressure for students to smoke. However there are many risks involved. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It prematurely ages the skin and triples your chances of getting wrinkles around your eyes and mouth. It also causes impotence and reduced sperm count in men and reduces fertility in women. It can lead to gum disease, make the body store fat around the waist and increases the chance of cellulite.
Don’t assume that smoking will help you through exams. Medical evidence shows that smoking doesn’t calm you down. It is simply that nicotine cravings in between cigarettes make you feel stressed and anxious so when you have one you feel temporarily calm. You’ll feel less stressed once you quit and no longer have cravings.
If you would like help to quit smoking, you can make an appointment to see our nurse.
There is also lots of help available on the NHS Choices website.
Almost half of 16 to 24 year olds in England & Wales have tried drugs at least once, most commonly cannabis. Experimenting with drugs can sometimes be presented as part of the student experience. Never feel pressured into doing something that you are not comfortable with and don't pressure anyone else into doing the same. A lot of drugs can lead to long term psychological problems.
Drugs are illegal for a reason. They can risk your physical and mental health and can be very addictive. There are severe penalties for possession of some drugs (possession of a class A drug can lead up to 7 years in prison). Universities will not look kindly on you if you are arrested for drug possession. Many universities would ban you from campus or drop you from your course.
The best way to minimize the risk of drugs is not to take them. Failing this, it is best to find out as much information as possible about any drugs you’re using including addiction, risks and mixing other drugs or alcohol.
If you feel like you have, or may be developing a problem with drugs, you can make an appointment with the doctor who will be able to advise you on the best action to take.