We should be giving students lessons in how to handle drink

There can be great fun associated with drinking, but it’s a question of knowing when to put the lid on it, so says Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
We should be giving students lessons in how to handle drink
RAISING A GLASS: How about appealing to students to cut back on their boozing on more tangible grounds? asks Colette Sheridan. Picture: Stock

IT’S easy to pillory students for their carry-on, such as drinking in ‘early houses’ and generally behaving like decadent, spoilt brats.

The news that one of Cork’s best-known ‘early houses’, licensed to sell alcohol from 7am, had to hire extra security to cope with an influx of college students during UCC’s Refreshers Week, won’t go down well with these young folks’ parents and guardians.

But instead of coming over all righteous and condemning the behaviour of the students, maybe we should look at this “new phenomenon” — so-called by the head of the city’s branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, Michael O’Donovan — from the students’ point of view.

Quite simply, these wasted young ones embark on their nights out full of youthful exuberance. High on being young and lucky enough to be at college — where life-long friendships will be formed and degrees or diplomas will be pursued with, one hopes, enthusiasm — the students can get side-tracked by what amounts to almost competitive drinking.

They think they’re immortal and that they’ll never have to reckon with a dodgy liver.

But trying to appeal to students about the dangers of drinking on health grounds is generally a waste of time. In their late teens and early twenties, they feel invincible.

So, how about appealing to students to cut back on their boozing on more tangible grounds? Like avoiding the fear, the shame and the danger of binge drinking.

The fear is what every boozer experiences when they wake up after a night on the tiles. As well as a crushing headache that makes daylight the enemy, the hung-over student may have had a black-out.

Who knows what happened when they were visibly functioning but were cognitively absent? How did they get home? Did they hook up with somebody? Did they have a row with friends?

If the student replies ‘I don’t know’ to even one of these questions, then it’s time to rein in the heavy drinking.

Easier said than done, admittedly. But nobody wants to become a casualty of our often harmful drinking culture.

There is something to be said for ‘learning’ how to drink. Shouldn’t parents take their offspring (once they’re over 18) to the pub and have a civilised one or two drinks with them?

I know of a couple that do that occasionally with their daughter. She seems to be holding it together. Maybe I’m being naive here. Does latent alcoholism always come to the fore?

But there are plenty of students who could avoid forming a drink problem by treating alcohol with respect. That really boils down to a certain amount of fear.

Drink is fearsome. Unless you form a healthy relationship with it, you could be heading for trouble.

There are all sorts of grounds on which to appeal to students when trying to steer them away from harmful drinking.

When I was drinking, before I copped on and gave it up, I used to worry about how many brain cells I was killing. There was also the financial outlay.

Rocking up to an ATM in the early hours of the morning when I could barely count, was a bit depressing. The next day, I’d wonder how the hell I could have got through so much money with so little to show for it, apart from puffy, dark-circled eyes and a shake in my hands. And it was all supposedly in the name of fun! How pathetic. And what a waste on so many fronts.

Yes, there can be great fun associated with drinking in the company of friends. It’s not all doom. But it’s a question of knowing when to put the lid on it, metaphorically speaking.

Once you accept that continuous drinking sessions, with no end in sight, will end in tears, then you might have some chance.

The problem with booze is that it makes you live very much in the present. And while that is supposed to be desirable, according to the self-help books, it’s a bit troublesome once you have a pint in hand.

You forget hangovers past and you fail to predict the forthcoming hangover. You think you’re having a great time but if you do the dog on it, there’ll be hell to pay.

These days, I meet friends in cafes or pubs during the day time. While I don’t like noisy crowded pubs at night, I still like the cocooning atmosphere of them.

Which is why I’m hoping an alcohol-free bar, the Virgin Mary, opening in Dublin next month, will be a success. Maybe one will open in Cork.

The Bar, on Capel Street, will serve alcohol free beers from Denmark and ‘de-alcoholised’ wines from Spain. All some of us ex-drinkers require is good coffee.

Students, be careful. Alcohol-free drinks could be your sobered-up future. Sláinte!

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