Tips for drinking safely at university

7 November 2022

Alcohol consumption is not a pre-requisite for having a good experience at university. UCL Arts & Sciences student Vivianne Zhang Wei provides some tips for drinking ahead of alcohol awareness week in November.

Persons toasting each other with their glasses of drinks

No parents? Staying out as late as you want? Surrounded by alcohol? That means… time to GET SMASHED! Or?

It’s no secret that a lot of alcohol is consumed at university, but it is also not as intrinsic to students having a good experience as it’s made out to be. If you browse the Students’ Union’s What’s On calendar, you’ll find that there’s a huge variety of non-drinking events happening at UCL throughout the year. In fact, some people will tell you that their best memories at university were sober ones.

But if you are going to drink during your time at UCL, here are some tips on how to do so responsibly and safely. As boring as “drinking safely” might sound, it’s all to make sure that you end your nights out with lots of good memories, and not alcohol poisoning or some other regrettable experience.

Pre-drink (and pre-eat!) responsibly

Having pre-drinks, or “pres”, before heading out is a great way to get to know people in a more intimate setting (and let’s be real, make our budgets stretch). But if you want to get through the night safely, make sure to start slow. It’s not a rare occurrence for someone to have a few too many pre-drinks or a few too many rounds of ring of fire and then get refused entry at the club after chundering in front of the bouncer! Or, for that student to end up not remembering a thing from the entire the night.

Pre-drink responsibly by alternating your alcohol with water or soft drinks and, most importantly, to eat (the right food). You want to ‘line your stomach’ with foods high in protein and healthy fats, such as eggs, yoghurt, and avocado. They will help slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream – not only stopping you from getting too drunk too fast, but also preventing a bad hangover the next day.

Stick to your own drink

There’s no point in keeping an eye on your drink if you end up sipping from someone else’s anyway. Spiking risks aside, with a good mixer, you probably can’t tell how much alcohol other people’s drinks contain. There is a world of difference between “one drink” and “one drink” poured by some lad twice your size who likes his vodka coke with more vodka than coke. So, when you’re at a flat party, pour your own drink, keep an eye on it, and stick to it.

Know how to help if someone drinks too much

No matter how cautious you are, things sometimes go wrong. If not for yourself, then perhaps for a friend (who may not have read this blog). Alcohol poisoning can be very dangerous, and even fatal – so knowing the signs and how to help, could help you save a friend or colleague’s life. According to the NHS, the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion

  • Severely slurred speech

  • Loss of co-ordination

  • Vomiting

  • Irregular or slow breathing

  • Pale or blue-tinged skin caused by low body temperature (hypothermia)

  • Being conscious but unresponsive (stupor)

  • Passing out and being unconscious

If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning, call 999 immediately and stay with them until an ambulance arrives. Visit Drinkaware’s Alcohol Poisoning page for more advice on what to do (and not to do – such as give them coffee or a cold shower).

Give yourself time to recover

If you’re running on three hours of sleep, maybe consider hitting the hay instead of the club tonight. That is easier said than done, especially when everyone else is bragging about how sleep-deprived they are too. But, when you’re already feeling sluggish, drinking will only make it worse.

If you still want to spend time with friends, suggest a non-drinking activity, like a movie-night with some healthy snacks. Then you can use your hangover-free morning to hit the gym, visit a museum, or treat yourselves to a nice brunch with the money you saved last night.

How UCL Student Support and Wellbeing can help

If you need support, make an appointment with one of our caring advisers, or, if you are living in UCL managed accommodations, speak to one of our friendly student residence advisers.

Vivianne Zhang Wei, UCL Year 3 Arts & Sciences Student