PHA urges Freshers to think before you drink

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During ‘Freshers’ Week’, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging students across Northern Ireland to think about their drinking and to know their limits if they do choose to drink alcohol.

Enjoying new freedoms, at college or university, means taking care of yourself and others and, if you choose to drink, staying within safe alcohol limits.

Owen O’Neill, PHA Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager for drugs and alcohol, said: “Some young people may drink more when they leave home, or join their friends in college or university for the first time. They might think that, as young people, they don’t have to take care with alcohol, but staying within the safe drinking limits is important for everyone who drinks.

“Excessive and binge drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. Drinking too much can also increase the risk of accidents and antisocial behaviour as well as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.

“We would also strongly advise against drinking games. Although they are regarded as a ‘bit of fun’, in reality they can be very dangerous. As an extreme form of binge drinking, where large quantities of alcohol are consumed in a very short time, drinking games can result in alcohol poisoning, leading to brain damage, coma or death.

“The PHA encourages students to enjoy their new student life, but urges them to be aware of their alcohol intake and drink responsibly, especially throughout Freshers’ Week, when many cheap drink promotions may be available.”

Daily alcohol limits are recommended by the government in order to avoid the risks of excessive and binge drinking in any one session. These are: Men - no more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day and no more than 21 units over the course of the week while Women - no more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units over the course of the week.

Can of extra strong lager - 4 units ; Bottle of lager - 1.5 units; Pint of standard lager - 2.5 units; Pint of premium larger - 3 units; Small pub bottle of wine - 2.25 units; 70cl bottle of wine - 7 to 10 units; Standard 275ml of alcopops - 1.5 to 1.8 units; 70cl bottle of alcopops - 3.75 to 4.5 units; Pub measure of spirits - 1.5 units; Pint of cider - 3 units; Pint of stout - 2.5 units.

If you do choose to drink alcohol: DON’T: Ever drink and drive; Drink on an empty stomach; Mix alcohol with other drugs; Drink in rounds as this may speed up your drinking; Leave your drinks unattended

DO: Take sips rather than gulps; Alternate each alcoholic drink with a non alcoholic drink e.g. water or a soft drink; Set yourself a limit and try to stick to it (refer to daily alcohol limits); Take frequent breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover; Tell friends and family where you are going and who you will be with.

Remember, that for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases. It’s important to spread the units throughout the week – you can’t ‘save up’ your units for the weekend or your holiday. It is also important to drink plenty of water, ideally matching the amount of alcohol you have consumed.

So students, make smart choices this term - drink sensibly and know your limits!

For further information on sensible drinking and alcohol units visit the Public Health Agency’s website www.knowyourlimits.info