This week… Keir tackles the misuse of alcohol
Ask Keir is a column aiming to answer all your health questions. If you want to know about that funny looking lump that won’t go away, why that student doctor keeps poking you or anything at all to do with health get in touch at: AskKeir@gmail.com
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Question of the Week
Hi I’m in 2nd year and one of my mates is getting drunk pretty much every night. A group of us are pretty worried he’s developing a problem as last year he would drink alcohol but only when we all would and it wasn’t anything like this year. He’s also missing pretty much all of his lectures so I don’t know how he’s going to pass his exams. We haven’t tried talking to him yet as we think he might get quite tetchy about it but is there anything you suggest?
The misuse of alcohol in students is an issue that hasn’t escaped the news in the last few years and there’s a reason why. Students tend to be one of the largest alcohol drinking groups especially with binge drinking. One of the main reasons people turn to the drink is because they want to escape from problems going on in their life, which cause depression and anxiety.
These conditions can be due to pressures that people feel unable to cope with and, as much as people outside the student population think we, as students, have it easy, there are numerous pressures (exams, essay deadlines, moving to a new city, making new friends), which means that we can turn to drink. One quick method GPs use to identify whether someone has a drink problem is the CAGE questionnaire. Its just 4 questions and will pick up 93% of those with an alcohol dependency.Have you ever felt the need to cut back on alcohol? Have you ever been annoyed at someone criticising your drinking? Have you ever felt guilty about drinking alcohol? Have you ever used alcohol has an eye opener in the morning?
If you answer yes to two or more of those questions it suggests a ‘significant alcohol problem’. I have a feeling many students may be surprised by their results. However it is important to recognise that a score of 2 or above is not a diagnosis.
You’re right to be wary about confronting him or her over drinking because it can be a very sensitive issue and most people don’t want to risk a friendship. However if you are seriously worried there are a few things you can do to try and help. Perhaps begin with not talking about alcohol but ask whether there is anything they are worried about in life at the moment and if there’s anything you can do to help. Often people open up straight away because of the relief of just having someone to talk to. If not then it’s perhaps worth being reasonably blunt but make sure there’s another one of your friends with you that is also concerned as it adds greater legitimacy to what you are saying.
The university offers a great counseling service, which can be found online if they want someone to talk to and also suggest going to a GP if they have any other worries.