Mental Health in Focus: Alcoholism

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What is it?

It is always difficult to determine the point when your drinking crosses the line between social and moderate to excessive or addiction, especially at University where alcohol surrounds you. It’s important to cut back if you recognise a significant number of the signs as alcohol abuse and alcoholism can have a huge negative impact on your life.  The Department of Health suggests that men should drink no more than 21 units a week, and woman should drink no more than 14.

What are the symptoms/ signs?

Alcohol addiction can tend to sneak up on people, you may have a drinking problem if you a) feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking, b) hide your drinking habits, or lie to others about how much you drink, c) have friends and family who are worried about your drinking, d) feel the need to drink in order to feel better, e) regularly drink more than you had a planned too, or f) experience regular ‘black outs’ or forget what you did whilst drinking. If you notice that you often and repeatedly neglect your responsibilities at home, work or Uni because of your drinking, or if you use alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous you could be suffering from alcohol abuse.  If you find that you’ve experienced any legal problems because of your drinking, for example being arrested for being drunk and disorderly, or if you also carry on getting drunk even when your alcohol use causes problems in your friendships or relationships, it might be the time to seek some help.

Where can you do if you think you might suffer?  

Recognising that you think you might have a problem is the hardest step, but once you have you are already on the road to recovery. Talk to your family and friends to see if they agree with you, and if they do their support will be your greatest asset.

Where can you go for help?

You can talk to one of the University councillors for free by booking an appointment via the student services section on for either an online session or a face-to-face session. If you would rather go to a specialised clinic, there is one in Nottingham on Oxford street. It’s called Oxford Corner and anyone over the age of 18 can go there for group therapy or a controlled drinking programme, call them on (0115) 948 5505 to arrange an appointment.

What can you do if your friend is suffering?

It can be really tough if a loved-one is suffering and it may be easier to try and ignore the issue but in the long-run it’s more damaging to both you and them. Don’t attempt to punish, threaten, bribe or preach to them, and try to avoid becoming a martyr. If you attempt to appeal to them emotionally it could increase their feelings of guilt and cause them to seek out drink to make themselves forget. Covering up or making excuses for their behaviour won’t result in them realising the issue, be real with them. Try not to argue with your friend whilst they are drunk, chances are it will drive them to drink more, and they won’t remember what you said anyway. Above all, don’t ever feel guilty or responsible for their behaviour, it’s not your fault.

Kate Parker

  • Great article Kate. You are exactly right, it is hard to notice when your drinking changes from purely social, to a habit, then to a dependency. And the usual age it all starts is mid-teens to early twenties. Alcohol addiction doesn’t happen overnight. It happens one choice at a time. It is an insidious slow process that happens by stealth. One day 5, 10 or 20 years down the track, you realise you ‘need’ to drink to deal with many normal situation and feel very anxious if you aren’t allowed to for some reason. Also you realise all the negative consequences of your drinking far outweigh what it actually does for you… though you still feel compelled to drink.

    This happened to me and I was addicted most of my life. Thankfully I was able to turn my life completely around where I am now permanently and blissfully alcohol-free (without even the desire to drink). I am again master of my fate, captain of my soul. I wrote a book ‘Alcohemy’ about my journey down and back from the path of alcohol addiction (including serious consequences like infidelity) and it would be a good ‘wake-up’ read for your students, to where seeming harmless social alcohol-abuse can lead. I dare anyone to read it and not seriously reconsider their alcohol use. As for helping others, my Alcohemy website also has a link where you can ‘anonymously’ add a friend’s first name and email and they will get a email from me suggesting my site maybe worth a visit to get some good information.

    Best wishes in your endeavour to help others.