Health and Wellbeing

Student Tips – When drinking becomes problematic

Alcohol is the most popular and common substance students tend to use to have fun on a night out. Here our Wellbeing Team provide quick tips for when drinking becomes problematic …


As with all things, drinking alcohol is best done in moderation and while it can help you to have a great time, it can cause some serious issues too. Here, we’ll provide quick tips and guidance on how to know when drinking is becoming a problem, and how to combat it. 

Knowing when drinking is becoming a problem

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when drinking stops being social and starts becoming problematic or even an addiction. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms and cut back on your drinking if you start to recognise them.


Problem drinking is when you continue to drink heavily despite alcohol causing harm to you, your family or your society.

For example, you may:

  •   Have an alcohol-related health condition
  •  Binge drink often, leading to days off work or antisocial behaviour while drunk
  •  Spend more on alcohol than you can afford
  •  Have problems with your relationships or studies due to drinking.


This can develop in to dependant drinking (or alcoholism), where you need to drink to prevent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

You may be alcohol dependant if you:

  •  Need a drink to stop intrusive thoughts/’the shakes’/other withdrawal symptoms
  •  Drink early, or first thing in the morning
  •  Spend lots of time in locations where alcohol is available
  •  Neglect other interests because of alcohol
  •  Become tolerant to the effects of alcohol and need to drink more to feel drunk.


Other signs that you have a form of drinking problem include:

  •  Feeling guilty or ashamed about your drinking habits
  •  Hiding your drinking from others
  •  Hearing from concerned family members or friends about your drinking
  •  ‘Blacking out’ or forgetting what you did while you were drinking
  •  Regularly drinking more than you intend to.


Drinking varies widely from culture to culture and person to person, so it’s not always easy to figure out where the line between social drinking and problem drinking lies. Essentially: if alcohol is disrupting your life in any way, you have a drinking problem.


How to combat the problem


1. Know your limits

One unit is a shot of spirits, half a pint of beer or cider, or 2/3 of a small glass of wine. You can use the DrinkAware Unit Calculator to find out how many units are in your drinks of choice.

  • Men: Should drink no more than 21 units per week, no more than 3-4 of these in one day, and should have at least two alcohol free days each week.
  • Women: should drink no more than 14 units per week, no more than 2-3 of these in one day, and should have at least two alcohol free days each week.
  • Pregnant Women: should not drink at all, as alcohol may harm the baby.


2. Cut down

Keep at least two separate days of the week alcohol-free. Try to make these routine. This gives your body time to recover from the impact of drinking.


3. Set a daily limit

For example, if you are on a night out you might want to set yourself a spending limit or stick to one kind of drink


4. Slow down

If you’re going to be in a pub for a few hours, drink one pint per hour and intersperse them with non-alcoholic drinks. Take smaller sips and always put your glass down between sips. Keep yourself distracted my playing pool or darts, or by chatting.


5. Look for alternatives to drinking

This involves looking at why you drink – your drinking diary will be useful again here. Is it to reduce boredom or anxiety, or to control depression? Is it to fit in or feel accepted? Approach these underlying problems in a more positive way.


6. Delay your cravings for as long as you can

When you want to drink, put it off for ten minutes, or an hour, or a day, or as long as you can manage, with the promise that if you’re still craving when time runs out you can have a drink then. Urges often disappear by themselves so you may not want a drink by the time your delay elapses. If you struggle with this, try distracting yourself in the meantime. Do something fun, or finish some chores, or go for a walk, and time will pass much more quickly.


7. If you are worried

Please do not hesitate to contact us at the Student Counselling, Health and Wellbeing service or download this app which helps you keep track of what you are drinking.



Best wishes

Annie, Student Intern

Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team 

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