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Responsible drinking advice from Drinkaware

Students enjoying drinks at a pub

As a student, you will no doubt be invited to lots of parties and events, particularly in your first few weeks of term. For students aged 18 and over, some of these events may involve the option to drink alcohol.

If you do choose to drink alcohol, it is important to drink responsibly and stay safe.

Here, Gabrielle Cheyney from Drinkaware shares her top tips for looking after yourself.

©DrinkawareA time for parties!

'As a former international student myself (I’m half English, half Seychellois), I know all about the great social life for students in the UK.

'Drinking alcohol is legal in the UK after the age of 18. Some students do choose to drink at social occasions, but if you prefer not to, don’t worry. Lots of students choose not to drink alcohol, and there are so many options to have fun!

'Pubs are a central feature of life in the UK. They’re great places to socialise. As well as selling alcohol, they also sell soft drinks like lemonade and cola, fruit juice and more – and many sell food too. It is perfectly normal to go to the pub and to drink a soft drink.

'Tea and coffee "hangouts" are growing in number as well. Many cities now have an abundance of pretty little tearooms or cafés where you can go and study or just relax with your friends and maybe enjoy some delicious cakes and pastries as well.

'Sports, gigs (small music concerts), comedy nights, plays, and charitable societies like RAG (student-run charities) also offer great opportunities to make friends, get involved in campus life and have a fantastic time.'

Top tips on drinking responsibly

'If you are going to be drinking, here are some tips for drinking responsibly and staying safe:

  • Have a meal before or with your drink. Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol, so eating before you start drinking is always a good idea to stop you getting drunk very quickly.

  • Have water or soft drinks between each alcoholic drink. Alcohol dehydrates the body so it’s important to keep sipping non-alcoholic drinks.

  • Alcohol slows you down and affects your body’s responses. So the more you drink, the more likely you are to have an accident. Take extra care.

  • Alcohol increases the risk of accidents at home and at work, and of fires. Be extra vigilant in the kitchen, for example, and don’t drive, operate machinery, swim or take unnecessary risks.

  • Look after your friends and stick together. Make sure you have enough credit and battery on your phone, and that you have your friend’s mobile numbers saved before you go out for the evening.

  • After drinking alcohol, remember that your performance and judgement could still be affected the day after.

  • Being high in sugar means alcohol contains lots of calories – seven calories a gram in fact, almost as many as pure fat!

For example, a glass of wine is equivalent to a cookie. A pint of lager = One slice of pizza.

  • Many alcoholic brands now have ‘light’ low-alcohol alternatives containing fewer calories. Some ‘light’ wines have under 80 calories in a 175ml glass compared to 159 calories in the same measure of 13% ABV wine.

By law, all alcoholic drinks in the UK are labelled with 'ABV' (alcohol by volume), showing the percentage of alcohol they contain.

  • Drinking in 'rounds' (where you take turns to buy drinks for everyone in the group) can be hard on your wallet, waistline and your health and safety. Set yourself a budget of how much you want to spend on alcohol on a night out, or take cash with you and leave your card at home to avoid over-spending. Make sure you have enough money to get home safely at the end of the night.

  • Stay safe and away from trouble, and always be aware of your surroundings.

  • Never leave your drink unattended and don’t accept drinks from strangers.

  • When those winter months begin to draw in, extra care should be taken in cold weather as blood is taken away from the core of the body and vital organs to the skin's surface when you drink. Make sure you dress warm, even if you don't feel cold.

More safety tips

For more information about student safety in the UK, read our articles on staying safe when you're out at night and the essential safety guide.

For more on responsible drinking, see: Drinkaware's Freshers' week guide / Drinking tips and facts / Download the Drinkaware app for iPhone.