So it feels like we’ve hit pretty much every other demographic from young person to older people except university students. So to the left is the university drinking league table for 2015 where they quizzed 1,649 UK university students via an online survey, asking all about your drinking habits and attitudes towards alcohol. And here is the research paper that looks at university student drinking from a research and academic point of view! My current university it seems is 46th on the list out of 50.
Alcohol is a leading cause of global suffering. Europe reports the uppermost volume of alcohol consumption in the world, with Ireland and the United Kingdom reporting the highest levels of binge drinking and drunkenness. Levels of consumption are elevated among university students. Thus, this literature review aims to summarise the current research on alcohol consumption among university students in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and PsychInfo were systematically searched for literature from January 2002 until December 2014. Each database was searched using the following search pillars: alcohol, university student, Ireland or the United Kingdom and prevalence studies.
Two thousand one hundred twenty eight articles were retrieved from electronic database searching. These were title searched for relevance. 113 full texts were retrieved and assessed for eligibility. Of these, 29 articles were deemed to meet inclusion criteria for the review. Almost two thirds of students reported a hazardous alcohol consumption score on the AUDIT scale. Over 20 % reported alcohol problems over their lifetime using CAGE while over 20 % exceed sensible limits each week. Noteworthy is the narrowing of the gender gap throughout the past decade.
This is the first review to investigate consumption patterns of university students in Ireland and the United Kingdom. A range of sampling strategies and screening tools are employed in alcohol research which preclude comparability. The current review provides an overview of consumption patterns to guide policy development.
To read the full paper go here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759952/
Edited to add: for anyone who missed the excellent Louis Theroux documentary Drinking to Oblivion last night on BBC 2 it’s showing on iPlayer for the next 29 days here:
No link has gone up on Youtube yet but as soon as it does I’ll share it here for my non UK based readers 🙂
Edited to add 30th Sept 2017:
I loved reading the book ‘Almost Alcoholic’ by Robert Doyle and Joseph Nowinski but I was left with this nagging question that I can’t shrug off and which wolfie is quietly nurturing.
So many of their case studies who were in the ‘almost alcoholic’ zone seemed to be able to go back to normal social drinking after some self-help work or psychological therapeutic input. Now don’t get me wrong they are clear that there are some who cannot go back to this type of drinking however hard they try. They talk about drinking developing to the point of dependence or a person having co-occurring conditions, such as mental health problems.
In the UK substance abuse or misuse is seen and treated as part of the mental health service within the wider children and young people’s services if you are under the age of 17. Both mental health, drugs and alcohol carry the same type of stigma for young people and adults despite huge campaigns to change it (for example the time to change campaign). Which is why I struggle to accept where I am and am still looking for a way round. As you know I’ve been having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) specifically to look at my drinking and having done a series of posts on drinking thinking. In the near future I will start to look at my thoughts and the formulations that we are working on to share them with you here. I posted before about a friend of mine who had CBT and turned their drinking around completely. This both fascinates, excites and scares me. Could I do the same, would I want to and what if I can’t? I’m still trying to figure that out.
89 days to go
The question that I dread the most and keeps me hiding out at home still is this one. What to say when people ask you what you want to drink and when you ask for a non-alcoholic option and the questions then follow what’s your ‘go to’ response?
In some respects having young children has really helped me as I don’t have much of a social life! When I’ve gone to parties I’ve taken alcohol free beer such as Becks Blue and that has avoided this question being asked but I would really like a killer line, ya know. Witty, yet deflective and maintains boundaries, particularly mine in this instance!
One that they shared in the Almost Alcoholic book that I talked about before here which I really like is this one:
“Thanks, but I drank my whole life’s quota of alcohol by the time I was forty, so I’ll pass”
The person who used this was a nurse and she said that many people responded with a smile or a laugh and no one ever frowned or pressed her to take a drink. I like that and may co-opt this for myself 🙂
The one that feels most comfortable for me right now is that ‘I don’t drink anymore because for me life is so much better without it’.
What’s worked for you when dodging booze that I could also try?
94 days to go
PS Completely unrelated but I just had to mention as a nurse and employee of the NHS that yesterday it was voted the best healthcare system in the world by an international panel of experts. “The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” the fund’s researchers conclude in their 30-page report. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less. We don’t often get an opportunity to toot our horn and this is my blog so three cheers for the NHS!!! 🙂
Previously I had posted that I was still struggling with my social life and how I felt about drinking when I was out socially around drinking venues and other drinkers.
But in the last few weeks I’ve noticed a shift. My social life is improving and is reaching out to new groups and new ways of socialising that I just wouldn’t of considered before.
I’ve met some other lovely sober bloggers for lunch and cups of tea and am keen to do this again soon, but this time with cake 🙂
Secondly I have started going out with some friends at work. We’ve been going for a bite to eat and then on to the cinema and we’ve done this a couple of times now and I really enjoy it. Doing something where no one drinks is really odd but equally really nice. When we first had a meal together I was struck by how no one at the table had an alcoholic drink and how weird that seemed – but for me, newly sober, how fantastically reassuring. There is a social life out there where booze isn’t a pre-requisite! Who knew?!
I’m lining up tickets to a gig soon too which will be breaking new ground for me but it’s a couple of months out yet and I’m beginning to feel that by then this will be less of a problem because not drinking will have become even more the ‘new normal’ for me. Who needs booze to have a good time anyway? It would seem not me anymore, how ’bout you? 😉
There was a discussion on Soberistas about this British BBC documentary which I had never heard of before and therefore not seen.
I watched it last night and it reminded me very much of my nursing days which I talked about here. I also wrote a guest post for Veronica Valli that was my account of caring for a dying alcoholic that you can read here.
It was filmed in 2006 and is a hard-hitting, shocking and saddening account of the lives of 4 alcoholics during hospital admissions and relapse. If you wanted an insight into my nursing experience then this is a very accurate and true reflection.
Here is the link to the documentary:
Why I am I sharing it here? Because my nursing experience helps keep me on the recovery path. Although as a drinker my alcohol consumption never reached this level or had this impact on my physical health I knew that this is where I would end up if I carried on. It is a sobering ever present reminder to me and maybe it will help you stay on the path if you are wobbling or strengthen your resolve to stop if you haven’t yet.
This is a real biggie in our world. We use labelling to connect with people but also to distance ourselves. So I am happy to be a member of the sober blogging community because that has positive connotations for me but am still stuck on the ‘am I an alcoholic?’ question because the label of alcoholic still carries and attracts very negative stigma.
“This is a more severe type of overgeneralization; attributing a person’s actions to their character instead of some accidental attribute. Rather than assuming the behavior to be accidental or extrinsic, the person assigns a label to someone or something that implies the character of that person or thing” (source)
Being unable to control our drinking is seen as a character defect rather than the reflection of an alcoholic substance that we have accidentally become addicted too because of our cultural acceptance and encouragement of us to drink. For me it suggests that I am a ‘bad’ person and that I have ‘failed’ in some way. But I am not defined by my ability to drink alcohol or not, this is just a tiny facet of me as a person, and yet I feel shame.
Strategies to manage:
- Back to checking for evidence. I am not the only person struggling with this issue and thanks to the sober blogging community I know this. I could always go to an AA meeting in real life and check it there too.
- Beware of labels as they usually hide the truth
What other labels need deconstructing and redefining? Sober and what that means is the first one that springs to my mind. What else? Chime in below 🙂
This is times when I focusing entirely on negative elements of a situation, to the exclusion of the positive. I guess for me and drinking that would be thinking about when I was moderating and how when I started to drink heavily again how I could not think about the times of moderating as positive and how each time I was learning new tools for my sober toolkit. They weren’t wasted they were valuable learning opportunities but I saw them as negative relapses.
Also, it is the brain’s tendency to filter out information which does not conform to already held beliefs. So if someone said something nice about this blog post I might still think it was not good enough and that it should have been better written because I believe I am not creative.
This is mental filtering.
As Almost Alcohol wrote: Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. In this piece of writing she focused on the fictional relapse and not on the successful quitting before that night.
The new way of thinking includes:
- Checking the evidence to support the statement
- Write a list of all the ‘good bits’ no matter how small they seem by comparison
- Try not to filter out all the bad stuff and just focus on that
Every time you attempt to moderate and do so successfully, for however long a duration, this is a good thing if you are trying to cut down or stop completely. I spent years moderating before I finally nailed this quit and I wouldn’t have done it without all the good things I learned about my drinking and myself during the process. It’s not always the outcome but the process which teaches us the most or to use the oft used expression ‘it is not the destination but the journey’.
What great things did you learn when you turn your mental filter to positive? I’d love to hear them 🙂
Ooh this one was a biggie for me. Catastrophising. I had an old nursing colleague who said that I could take one problem and split that into ten and then split each of those ten into another ten until I had a pyramid of problems, worries and anxieties. Maybe being a nurse doesn’t help as during your career you get to see the worst possible things happen and you just end up with a jaded view. Who knows.
But I can magnify a problem like a pro. Exaggeration? No, just disaster/risk management in my book 😉 But the thing about this line of thinking is that if you see the problem as SO big it becomes unmanageable; the ‘you can’t eat an elephant in one bite’ approach as Belle would say. You’re also minimising and underestimating your ability to deal with it, like you are looking down a telescope from the wrong end. So I end up paralysed, in analysis paralysis.
Here’s some catastrophising: I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives.
And here’s some minimising: Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person (Almost Alcohol)
So what to do?
- When things do go wrong I try to avoid turning a small problem into a disaster. Mountains out of molehills anyone?
- I search for the evidence. How bad is it really?
- I assess my ability to manage it. Am I really not able to manage it?
- I make a list of things I could try to do
- If all else fails I call in the professionals
Sorry not trying to make light – I couldn’t help myself 😀
So this one has taken some major work on my part. How do you catastrophise around your drinking thinking?
As you know I started some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to look at my thinking around drinking. Having done a couple of sessions I quickly began to realise that, actually, my drinking was a symptom of a much more complex issue than my inability at times to control how much I drink. Shit, this was not what I thought it would be.
In one of the early sessions we looked at some of the thinking errors that can occur that can keep us trapped in negative thought patterns. These negative thinking patterns simply convince our mind that what we see is true when it is not. These cognitive distortions are “maladaptive” and CBT replaces these “coping skills, cognitions, emotions and behaviors with more adaptive ones by challenging an individual’s way of thinking and the way that he/she reacts to certain habits or behaviors” (source)
So the main thinking errors are:
- Black and white thinking
- Emotional reasoning
- Mental filter
- Discounting the positive
- Should’s and musts
- Jumping to conclusions
Now I recently read this brilliant post by Almost Alcohol and with her permission I am reproducing this particular paragraph here because she has completely nailed my thoughts around drinking and I couldn’t have written it better myself.
Why is it here? Because it beautifully illustrates some of the thinking errors that I display and that she expressed on my behalf 😉
Shit. I’m pretty drunk. Shit. This wasn’t what I wanted to happen. Maybe I can’t drink normally. Maybe I’m really an alcoholic. Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. I’m a fuck up. I can’t get out of this. I can’t quit. I always thought I could quit when I finally decided to and I can’t. I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives. I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. I didn’t mean to be an alcoholic but it’s too late, I guess. Life didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person. I might as well learn to live with that. Fuck it. Lots of people are crappy. We all grow up and learn the truth, that we are just not that great. So I drink. So I’m a drinker. What the fuck ever. I wish I weren’t, but also I wish I were thin and dynamic and good at crafts and successful and I’m not. We can’t all be perfect. I’ll just accept that my life isn’t great. At least then I can drink, which gives me something to look forward to when I’m bored and depressed.
Over the next 10 posts I’m going to address each of those thinking errors listed above and we’ll play a bit of buzzword bingo and see if we can spot them in the paragraph above.
Starter for 10? 🙂
This programme was aired on ITV on Thursday 17th April at 19.30 as the Easter Bank Holiday kicked off here in the UK. This used to be a drinking fest for me as you could drink from the eve of Good Friday all the way to the end of Easter Monday if you wanted to. One of our locals holds an Easter Beer Festival Week-end with bands and guest beers running and I’m sure they are not the only one.
Jonathan Maitland takes a look at Britain’s binge drinking culture and the impact it is having on the health of young people including premature liver disease. If you would like to watch it you can find it here:
It makes grim viewing particularly the group of 4 students who are followed before and after a regular night where they are seen pre-loading (or prinking as my neice informed me) and then out on the town consuming anywhere between 26 and 48 units in one night! It also covers the stories of one teenagers death from alcohol poisoning in one night, a teenager who is now a recovering alcoholic and a man in his early twenties who died of liver failure caused by drinking. Plus plenty of experts sharing their opinions and views.