Students are well known for their heavy drinking and hangovers. A 2016 survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 48 per cent of students believe getting drunk means they'll have a good night out. Some 85 per cent say drinking and getting drunk are part of university life, with 41 per cent of students surveyed saying they drank to get drunk at least once a week.
Around 45 per cent say it's hard not to drink too much on a night out. Cut-price drinks and free drinks promotions at universities are another factor. Those who belong to university sports clubs tend to drink more excessively and frequently than other students.
Male students are more likely to binge drink than female students (20 per cent compared with 10 per cent) and they feel pressure to drink alcohol more than women, with 12 per cent saying their friends expect them to drink on every night out.
Effects of binge drinking on your body
Binge drinking is defined as having eight or more units in a single session for men, and six or more units for women. Your body can only process one unit of alcohol per hour.
Alcohol is linked with over 60 health problems, from cancers to high blood pressure, liver disease, depression and infertility.
Drinking five to seven units increases your risk of an accident or injury by two to five times. The Royal Life Saving Society says a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream.
Too much booze affects your mood and memory and in extreme cases can stop your breathing and your heart, or you could choke on your own vomit. It may also lead to aggressive and anti-social behaviour.
After four to six units of alcohol, your judgement and decision-making skills are affected and reaction times slow down. After eight to nine units, speech and vision are affected and your liver is unable to remove all the alcohol fast enough – a hangover is inevitable. After 10 to 12 units, coordination is badly affected, so your risk of having an accident is high, plus the depressant effect makes you drowsy. You'll feel sick and may vomit. If you drink 12 plus units, there's a high risk of alcohol poisoning, especially if it's drunk quickly. This can cause you to fall into a coma.
Research has also found drinking to excess can affect your immune system. Even one binge drinking session can compromise your body's ability to fight off infections and viruses.
Sticking to safe limits
Guidelines now recommend a maximum of 14 units a week for men, spread evenly over three days or more. This is a reduction from the previous recommendation for men of 21 units a week.
One unit is 10ml of pure alcohol. Fourteen units is around six pints of beer, and a glass of wine is about two units.
Safe drinking tips
- Eat before you go out: Lining your stomach will slow down absorption of alcohol.
- Drink water between alcoholic drinks: This will help dilute alcohol in your bloodstream, but also stop your drinking alcohol out of thirst and help you stay within safe limits.
- Download a phone app to get track to keep track of your drinking: The charity Drinkaware provide a free app to track alcohol units available here.
- Aim to have alcohol-free days: This will give your liver a break.
- Opt for low-alcohol drinks: Lower alcohol drinks can help reduce the number of units you're drinking.
Helping your body to recover
If you do overindulge (and we're not advocating that you do), here are some tips for getting rid of your hangover.
- Drink water before bed: Alcohol makes you pass urine more and it's this dehydrating effect that causes your hangover symptoms. Drinking at least a pint of water before bed after you've been out drinking can help you avoid dehydration.
Take a painkiller or antacid: Painkillers such as paracetamol will help with your sore head and an antacid can settle a queasy stomach.
Sip a sports drinks or rehydration salts: These will replace lost salts and boost your energy levels. A fruit juice will give you a vitamin C boost.
Munch a banana: Bananas or kiwis are good hangover foods as they're rich in potassium, which is lost when you drink to excess.
Supplements that may help
- Milk Thistle is a Traditional Herbal Remedy (THR) that can help you recover from over-indulgence and help ease an upset stomach. You can take this before and after drinking.
- Globe Artichoke is a plant remedy, believed to stimulate flow of bile from your liver which aids hangover symptoms.
- Multivitamins (especially vitamins B and C, calcium and magnesium) help to replace the vitamins and minerals lost during a drinking binge.
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.