Shocking world of our student drunks

By Martin Johnston, Isaac Davison

A New Zealand Medical Journal paper notes that students living in university dorms or halls of residence often drink more than those who live elsewhere. Photo / Thinkstock
A New Zealand Medical Journal paper notes that students living in university dorms or halls of residence often drink more than those who live elsewhere. Photo / Thinkstock

Nearly a third of university drinkers have passed out while boozing in the past six months - and many say vomiting does not stop them continuing a binge.

More than half said they had physically hurt themselves while intoxicated to that point, according to a shocking paper published today by the New Zealand Medical Journal.

It reveals that 27 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women say throwing up will not stop them from continuing their boozing.

The Waikato University study canvassed about 500 students, mostly aged 18 or 19, from the dormitories of a medium-sized university, which it did not name.

The study, part of the doctoral research of Waikato student Brett McEwan, investigated "controlled intoxication" - the ways in which some heavy drinkers monitor and manage their excessive alcohol intake.

It comes as Parliament considers the Alcohol Reform Bill, which introduces a split purchase age under which the minimum age for buying liquor at supermarkets and other off-licence shops would be increased from 18 years to 20.

The age in pubs and other on-licensed premises would remain 18.

The bill, to be reported back from a select committee on June 23, is in response to the Law Commission's 2010 report aimed at curbing the harms of alcohol.

The Medical Journal paper notes that students living in university dorms or halls of residence often drink more than those who live elsewhere.

It also shows that many students "pre-load" - drink on private premises - before going to on-licence premises.

But they do not drink so much that they are refused entry.

Forty-four per cent of the male students surveyed and 30 per cent of the female said they got drunk weekly.

The drinkers were asked how they responded to 14 effects of drinking.

Fifty-three per cent of the men said they usually stopped drinking when the room "started spinning", 26 per cent said they usually slowed their drinking, and 11 per cent said this did not influence their drinking.

Of the women, 61 per cent stopped, 24 per cent slowed down, 4 per cent were not influenced, and 10 per cent said "not applicable".

More than 20 per cent of the men said their drinking was not influenced as they started to lose the ability to walk or talk properly.

But 39 per cent of men and women said they would stop drinking if friends told them to do so.

Asked how they knew when they'd had enough to drink, one student told the researchers: "I know if I am going to drink any more I am going to make a total arse of myself, so I stop."

Another said: "I usually just keep going. I am usually still in control when I am smashed to a certain degree. I just keep topping it up.

"Once I hit smashed, then I will slow down a bit, come back down a bit and then keep topping up to that point."

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said there were few cues to challenge excessive drinking among students.

"Unfortunately, [risky drinking] is supported by our environment right now," she said.

"Alcohol is widely available, discounted, particularly targeted at students. Why would we expect them to be different?

"They have fun doing it. So we need to provide other viable social options, and alcohol needs to be de-emphasised by limiting the interests of the liquor industry. It sounds anti-business, but that's where the evidence lies."

Ms Williams said "the buck stops with the Government", which needed to make hard calls in its recommendations on the Alcohol Reform Bill.

"Parents and communities can do only so much. If the Government were to address accessibility, availability and promotion of alcohol, it would affect consumption."

DRIVEN TO DRINK
* When they vomit, 61 per cent of men and 71 per cent of women will usually stop drinking.
* 17 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women will usually slow their drinking.
* 10 per cent of men and 1 per cent of women say it doesn't influence their drinking.

Source: NZ Medical Journal

- NZ Herald

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