Within university student culture there can be a lot of pressure to drink alcohol to excess and experiment with drugs. This can have a serious impact on physical health, behaviour and psychological well-being so it's important to be aware of the facts. If you are concerned about yourself or a friend please remember that there is plenty of support available at BU, you can also find useful information online at drinkaware, FRANK and DrugScope.
It's important to recognise that not every person fits into one pattern of symptoms, and that drugs and alcohol can impact people in a variety of ways. The earlier the problem is addressed the less likely that drugs and alcohol are to cause serious harm to your health.
Drinking alcohol can seem to be a huge part of student life. While drinking in moderation is an enjoyable and usually harmless feature of student life, getting drunk regularly and binge drinking can have potentially serious physical, social and academic effects.
At BU we are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of our students. We strongly believe that a healthy lifestyle offers the best opportunity of academic success. We encourage all our students to take their own welfare seriously by eating and sleeping well, taking regular exercise and, if they choose to drink alcohol, doing so in moderation. To help our students achieve this goal we offer a range of wellbeing advice, offer the opportunity to engage in fitness through our sports activities and work with the Students’ Union on developing alcohol harm reduction strategies.
In the short term, drinking too much can impair academic performance because it affects concentration and makes you more likely to miss classes, hand in work late and do badly in exams. It can also put you at immediate risk of serious harm; if you're drunk you’re more likely to be a victim of violence or to have unprotected sex, which carries all the associated risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.
In the longer term, regularly drinking too much can cause liver disease, an increased risk of heart attack, weight gain and a number of different cancers. These problems are now occurring at younger ages as alcohol use has increased. For more information about how drinking can affect your health visit the drinkaware website; with information about how many units you are drinking and the affect this can have on you. As well as the recommended drinking guidelines and ways that you can reduce the amount that you drink. The Alcohol Education Trust have put together some information around responsible drinking including; staying safe while drinking, looking out for your friends and how drinking affects your ability to drive. You can also find out some facts about alcohol, view some alcohol related films and stories along with information about where to go for help and support.
Research has been published by BU academics around the subject of social norms and alcohol relating to students. Dr John McAlaney has looked at perceived behaviours, the overestimation of alcohol consumption and empowering students to make informed decisions about their own alcohol use. Find out more.
You may feel under pressure to experiment with drugs at university, but drugs are illegal for a reason. As well as the risks to your mental and physical health, using them can make you more likely to have unprotected sex, which in turn can increase your risk of being infected with an STI and having an unplanned pregnancy.
A small but significant proportion of regular drug users can come to rely on cannabis or even become addicted to drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Any such addiction can have a disastrous effect on your studies and health.
The legal penalties for drug possession can be severe. For example, possession of a class A drug, such as cocaine, can lead to up to seven years in prison. Being arrested for drug possession could also have a serious affect on your place at BU.
For more information visit the DrugScope website. The Priory Group have put together an interactive web page which gives information about the long term effects of taking drugs. You can find more support and advice about drug addiction on the Priory website.
As with alcohol, there can be a lot of social pressure for students to smoke.
Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It prematurely ages the skin and triples your chance 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, makes the body store fat around the waist and increases the risk of cellulite.
Don’t assume that smoking will help you through the stress of exams. Medical evidence shows that smoking doesn’t actually calm you down. It’s simply that nicotine cravings 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’re already a smoker, becoming a student could be the ideal time to quit. Going to university or college is a fresh start and a new way of life, and this is your chance to start your new life in a positive, healthy way.
Legal Highs (NPS)
Legal, or herbal, highs are untested and unregulated, are often stronger than other illegal drugs and cannot legally be sold for human consumption. They are also known as New Psychoactive Substances or NPS. The UK Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on the 26 May 2016, which banned NPS. This legislation makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export (including over the internet) any psychoactive substances.
It's important to know that they are not safe to take and neither are they guaranteed to be legal. So-called legal highs can cause serious side effects and have been linked to emergency hospital admissions, where the consequences can be fatal. Mixing NPS with alcohol or other drugs can also be harmful. For more information visit the FRANK or Know the Score websites.
BU can help you
Support available on campus includes Student Wellbeing, which offers free confidential support. This can include counselling, practical advice around your wellbeing and information about other services that can be accessed in the community. You can also talk to the Chaplaincy, SUBU Advice, the Student Medical Centre or your own GP.
If alcohol or drug issues are starting to affect your academic work you can talk to your Programme Administrator, Unit Leader or Tutor. Depending on your circumstances you may be entitled to a mitigation or extension. Find out more about Mitigating Circumstances.
If you want to go elsewhere for support look at the Resources A-Z page for details of local and national services that provide education, counselling and one-to-one support.