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Advice for University Students Dealing with Alcohol Problems

drinkingIf you are a student at university having developed a problem with alcohol, there will be options available to you to overcome this addiction. University should be one of the most enjoyable periods of your life, but alcohol may completely ruin the experience for you. Giving up alcohol at university does involve some unique challenges, but there are viable solutions as long as you are serious about change. Failure to deal with the problem now could have serious implications for your future, so we urge you to stop the progress of addiction now, before it is too late.

Why Do People Develop Alcohol Problems at University?

It is common for individuals at university to overindulge in alcohol. Excessive drinking sessions are definitely unhealthy and risky, but the majority of people do not allow it to interfere with their studies too much and only engage in this behaviour while away at university. Other students develop more serious alcohol problems, which gets in the way of their studies and puts them in real danger of serious consequences.

There are many theories about why some individuals develop serious alcohol problems while others do not. It seems likely that some are genetically predisposed to addiction, while those who have experienced emotional, physical, sexual, or mental trauma, would be more at risk. It has also been discovered that the younger people are when they start drinking, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic later on.

Going to university can be incredibly exciting, but there can also be a great deal of stress involved. Students can struggle to meet the requirements of their course, so alcohol can seem like an easy way to let off some steam. There can also be a strong drinking culture at university with plenty of cheap booze and parties. If people have any type of tendency towards addiction, going to university will often mean facing a great deal of temptation.

Problem Drinking or Alcoholism

It is important to be able to distinguish between problem drinking and alcoholism. If you have not yet developed a physical addiction, you may be able to regain control with the help of an addiction counsellor. The most common reason for this type of behaviour is lack of information about the dangers and lack of ideas about more constructive things to do with your time. Drinking too much will always be a serious problem and, if you continue with this behaviour, you are likely to cross the line into addiction.

If you have already developed an alcohol addiction, the only real option is to quit for good. This is because addiction leads to changes in the way your brain works and these changes tend to be permanent. This means that even if you stopped drinking for years, you could fall back into addiction as soon as you drank again.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine if you have developed addiction without first speaking to an addiction specialist or your GP. Addiction typically involves both a physical and psychological component. To say that you are physically addicted means that you have developed a tolerance for alcohol and you suffer from withdrawal changes when you try to stop. These withdrawals occur because your body has needed to adapt to having alcohol in the bloodstream, so it has to readapt when you quit. Psychological addiction is characterised by cravings and a feeling that you cannot cope without alcohol. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you have become physically or psychologically addicted but a basic rule of thumb is that if you are drinking despite the fact that it is causing obvious difficulties in your life, you have probably crossed the line into addiction.


Do You Need to Go to Rehab

Once individuals fall into addiction, it can be hard for them to stop without plenty of support. The benefit of going to rehab is that it will provide the perfect environment for overcoming your problems. Most rehabs also provide a supervised detox, which means you can be helped to make it through withdrawals safely and comfortably. Entering an inpatient treatment programme means greatly increasing the chances of being successful, which is why it is such a great idea. During your stay, you will also have plenty of time to pick up some new coping strategies so that you will be better able to live without alcohol once you leave. Some rehabs cater specially for young people, which is a great option if you are still a student.

You may be worried that entering rehab would harm your educational career. The reality is that most universities are very understanding about this type of problem (as it is fairly common) and will just want you to get the help you need. It is best to come clean about your situation if you need rehab, and you should be able to arrange time off from your studies so that you can receive treatment. This is a sensible choice because if you do not get the help you need, you may end up being kicked off the course anyway.

How to Stay Sober at University

The fact that you are at university means that there is going to be temptations to drink again. In order to prevent this from happening, there are things you can do:

  • Most universities will have clubs that are aimed at those who do not drink alcohol. Those who are in recovery usually arrange these activities.
  • Joining a fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous can be a great way to get support during your time at university. If you do not like AA, there are other options such as SMART Recovery.
  • It is strongly recommended that you build up a network of sober friends that you can turn to for advice and support. This will probably be easier to do if you belong to some type of fellowship programme.
  • Many activities can be enjoyed at university that do not involve drinking alcohol. It is recommended that you experiment with a few of these to find out what you like – be daring and sign up for lots of new activities.
  • Helping others can be an excellent way to strengthen your own recovery. This type of service is easy to find if you belong to a fellowship, but you can also help with any sober clubs on campus.
  • You will find that there is a thriving recovery community online, which can be an excellent resource for advice and support.
  • It is important that you have some type of plan in place for how you are going to deal with any thoughts of relapse. It can be hard to think rationally when you are caught up in this type of obsessive thinking, so it is important to have a plan beforehand.
  • Never take your recovery for granted and make staying sober your number one priority – remember that if you relapse, you are likely going to lose everything anyway.
  • Arrange for some rewards to give yourself when you pass exams or do well on an assignment – this is important because you need something other than alcohol to toast your successes.

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