If you do do drink, don't do drunk.

How can you solve the inner conflict of wanting to be liked, friendly, sociable or fun to be with when your feeling nervous even anxious, under confident and disorientated??? You know you are eager to meet others and get on with them. But anxiety about how you come across to others can stop you being yourself, or the person you would like to be now you're here in Brookes. Most new students feel alot and think a great deal about the first impression they want to make. Many have used alcohol to help, in that the bar is a place where socialising happens, and it can help you feel relaxed. It appears to impact on all those pent up feelings, reducing those inhibitions so that you feel better about things.

However, as we see some of the heart breaking consequences of acting on impulse (e.g. unplanned sex, accidents, relationship difficulties) precipitated by too much alcohol, I thought it would be helpful to provide you with a "rough guide" to alcohol so that you don't find yourselves, unintentionally, in a situation that you might regret.

The Student's Union supports the ethos of having fun, enjoying all the facilities and of being health aware. You will find useful drink guides in the bars, giving you the Alcohol by Volume of all their main alcoholic products, tea and coffee is served as is a good range of non-alcoholic drinks. They also display health information from The Medical Centre. Together we want you to have access to accurate, up to date health information to keep you healthy and well informed so that you can make the most of your time in Oxford.

Short term effects vary greatly from individual to individual but here is a summary of the side effects typical for a man of average build:

Drinking affects choices you make and decisions you take:

  • 1-2 units cheerfulness and increase in self confidence e.g. Manchester bus drivers, when given a drink, believed they could drive an 8' bus through a 7'6" gap!
  • 2 units Increased risk of accident
  • 3 units Usually increased happiness, but significantly impaired judgement
  • 5 units Above the legal limit for driving. Potential loss of driving license and cause of serious accidents
  • 10 units Slurred speech, loss of self control, maybe aggressive
  • 12 units Inability to walk straight, loss of memory
  • 18 units Approaching toxic levels. Continued drinking will lead to unconsciousness

Some comments from past students...

When I woke up experiencing - yet again - the "never again" feeling - the hangover, the splitting headache, the bad guts, the short-lived madness and laughter, the expense and embarrassment of the night before . I asked myself - "was it really worth it ?

I woke up not knowing where I was or what I'd done or who he was - I started to think of the possibilities ...... and needed "emergency contraception" despite having always said I wouldn't get myself into that situation.

A few drinks feels fine but why do they have to drink so much, so often. You feel odd if you don't go to the bar but where else is it all supposed to be happening?

I'm broke and it's only week 2!

2174 students in the north east were asked what their drinking habits were and then classified as non, light, medium, and heavy drinkers. They were cross tabulated against sexual and other risk taking behaviour. Heavier drinkers were more likely to have unsafe sex without a condom or to have sex with someone who had many partners.

What happens when you drink?

The first noticeable effects of alcohol are the gradual release from many ordinary anxieties and tensions. Gradually you feel more carefree and social inhibitions become relaxed. As with any drug the actual effects of alcohol depend very much on expectations, the environment and how you feel. But common reactions are talkativeness, cheerfulness, contentment, and sociability. However, sometimes the relaxation of inhibitions can release normally controlled emotions. Alcohol can impair your judgement and alter your perceptions.

Thus alcohol can make you feel able to talk to other people instead of feeling shy. It can make you feel full of "Dutch courage" so that you feel able to circulate more freely in The Union or the bar and ask her/him for a drink, a dance. (In some cases to go so far as to grab, assault, jeer....) Alcohol affects your negotiating skills.

Why is it that after a few too many pints of beer some guys think it is O.K. to walk up to a girl he has never met before and grab her breasts and expect her to respond favourably to his sexual advances? Why is it, that after drinking too much alcohol a girl may end up in bed with a guy she only met that night and is not really interested in? She wouldn't dream of it in the cold light of day. What alcohol decides at night, you may regret in the morning. Always check whether it's sexual attraction or an ethanol reaction.

Physical Changes

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and causes minor changes in blood circulation - a small increase in heart rate and the dilation of blood vessels in the skin. It causes sweating and can depress the temperature regulating mechanism in the brain. It causes inflammation of the stomach lining.

Alcohol diminishes sexual arousal and can inhibit male erection.

The main effects are on the Central Nervous System: consistent changes in mood and behaviour occur at blood concentration levels of 50mgs per 100mls (i.e. 3 1/2 units of standard beer - the legal driving limit is 80mg/100mls ie 5 units approx. 1 unit of alcohol = approximately 15mg blood alcohol) and becomes progressively more apparent as the amount of alcohol in the blood increases.

Facts and Figures: Did you know?

  • As a woman if you regularly drink 3 or more units a day there is an increasing risk to health.
  • As a man if you regularly drink 4 or more units a day there is an increasing risk to health.
  • If you drink 5 standard pints it will take 10 hours to get your blood alcohol level down to zero.
  • If you've had a heavy night's drinking you could still be over the legal limit for driving the next morning.
  • Hangovers are caused by dehydration. For every 1 pint of alcohol you drink your body loses 1 1/4 pints of water.
  • The liver can only break down 1 unit of alcohol per hour.

Black coffee = a wide awake drunk
Exercise = a tired drunk
Cold Showers = a wet drunk

Units of alcohol:

1/2 pint of standard beer = 1 unit
1/2 pint of standard lager = 1 unit
1 glass of wine = 1 unit
1/2 pint strong lager = 2 1/2 units

The Department of Health has recently raised the sensible drinking limits for men and women and currently recommends no more than:
3/4 units per day for men = 28 units a week
2/3 units a day for women = 21 units a week

  • If a man and a woman, of the same weight and height, drink the same amount of alcohol the woman's blood will have a higher concentration of alcohol. Women's bodies contain less body water than men's so with less water to dissolve the alcohol, the blood alcohol concentration is higher in the woman's blood than the man's.
  • The drinking behaviour of students during college years may determine their drinking patterns for the rest of their lives.

There are ways of making those first tentative relationships positive experiences:

  • Remember everyone is feeling pretty much the same.
  • Try to pace yourself so that you don't blurt everything out about yourself in one go. There is plenty of time to share experiences.
  • Small Talk is fine, about anything, from the weather to Oxford United . So feel relaxed and just chat. Starting is the problem, once you've got going things will flow. Talk to others in your queue, in the kitchens, in the refectory. If you need to just talk there are lots of people around including me (main foyer, gypsy lane site, wearing a badge), students union reps etc. all people very happy to chat to you to help break the ice - so come and meet us.
  • Friendships take time to build - there is no rush. If you find yourself part of several different groups of people, perhaps a mixture of flatmates or your field enjoy the variety and as long as you are clear about where you commit your time it's unlikely to cause problems.
  • Join the societies you most like the sound of - Fresher's Fair is the place to do all of that and go long to the first few meetings at least.
  • If you decide to socialise in The Union be clear about your boundaries in terms of how much is too much for you.
  • Try to give others the benefit of the doubt remaining tolerant of shy, awkward or embarrassed moments. Be kind to yourself thus treating your own shortcomings with tolerance and humour too.
  • Oxford can be a great place to explore so catch a bus into town (U1 or 7, 8 and 9) with others who are new too and have a look around.
  • Smile. If you smile someone will smile back and smiling relaxes the muscles in your face.
  • Look out for each other and stay safe.

On Campus

The Medical Centre offers confidential care - Nurses appointments providing a range of specialist nursing skills, a listening ear, leaflets, information and Doctor's advice and support. If you think you are drinking more than you want to or experiencing recreational drugs we are very happy to talk it through with you.

Student Services Counselling Service offers counselling, advice and someone to talk to.

Off Campus

Cranstoun Libra Services - offers confidential advice information and anyone who feels they have a problem around drugs and alcohol or who would like to know a bit more or just have a chat
Tel: 01865 723355

Alcoholics Anonymous
Tel: (01865) 242373.

Drinkline - Tel: 0800 917 8282 - Learn about the effects of alcohol on your life and lifestyle, so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to drinking alcohol.

Talk to Frank - drugs are illegal talking about them isn't - Talk to Frank, a national information website


The Medical Centre