'I had my first taste of alcohol when I was probably 14' – Irish college student reflects on Ireland's binge drinking culture

I had my first taste of alcohol (beer) when I was probably 14. But I started actually “drinking” when I was 17, I’d tip down the local pub, with my dad, for the odd pint (and have a maximum of three pints in a night) maybe once every week or two.

Drinking with my dad, and being educated by my parents, helped me to develop an understanding of alcohol – how it can be used without abuse. If I didn’t want to drink when we went out, I could have a mi-wadi instead. You’d get the odd sneer but I couldn’t care less.

Personally, I have never felt any pressure to drink or do anything illicit. My parents had always taught me to do what I wanted to do, and my friends are good enough to never force, coerce or persuade me into doing something that I do not want to do. 

Alcohol never affected me in my teenage years. However, in university, between first and second year, I became depressed. Alcohol was not the root issue but it didn’t help and I cut it down where and when I could. 

Drinking is the thing to do in college. It dominates every conversation about hanging out, going out, having fun, etc., especially in younger years. It’s kind of sad. Every day in the week there’s a certain “event” to go out to at night. I’ve stopped going mostly because of how people act at these places. Young people get excessively drunk, rude, aggressive, etc.

It’s also become a case where getting all my friends together only happens when a night-out is organised. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

That said, you do not need to drink to have a great social life in college. There are tonnes of clubs and societies where you can meet people, volunteering groups etc. I know plenty of people who don’t drink at all and have fantastic social lives. 

I do still go out and party. My social had taken a hit now that I’m in 3rd year and my friends and I are too busy to go out each night. Staying in, watching a film or that has become much more enjoyable for us nowadays.

One of the reasons I believe we may have issues with binge drinking is how intrinsic it is to our culture. Alcohol dominates social situations which people find themselves in. Parties, funerals, get togethers, weddings, graduations. I’m not saying I don’t like drink, I just have a problem with how it’s associated with everything in our lives. 

Young people also just drink too much too quickly. With drinking games, drinking at home, rushing to get your drink finished before the taxi arrives, etc people consume much more than they need. I’ve been drunk but I’ve never been sick the night of or the next day. I’ve never been lost or felt unsafe and never felt like I couldn’t get home or couldn’t remember how I’d gotten there. I don’t understand the need to go so far and put yourself in danger. 

Parents and schools need to do a better job educating how alcohol works and what can happen to you if you do continue bingeing. We probably should treat alcohol like tobacco. We know it causes massive problems. But I’m unsure about exactly what message will reach young people as a whole. Everyone is so different, with different levels of maturity, different attitudes towards alcohol and socialising. The long term issues around binge drinking are important but they don’t resonate with young people. I don’t think telling young people that they’ll get cancer and liver disease scares them. As long as they realise the immediate dangers associated with drinking.

Yet you still have people who can’t understand what drink-driving is and want people to be able to drink all night and then drive to work in the morning.  

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