Drug and Alcohol Awareness

Peer pressure, cheap student bars and the freedom of living away from home all contribute to the choices students make. Be aware of the dangers associated with drinking and taking drugs so you can make an informed decision about the way you live your life and care for your health.


Student life can seem to revolve around alcohol, with the student bar and local pubs often the centre of the college social scene. However, getting drunk regularly can have potentially serious physical, social and academic effects. Even drinking to excess just occasionally can be damaging.

In the short term, drinking too much can impair academic performance because it affects concentration and makes you more likely to miss classes, hand in work late and do badly in exams.

But it can also put you at immediate risk of serious harm, ranging from assault to car crashes. If you’re drunk, you’re also more likely to be a victim of violence or to have unprotected sex, which carries all the associated risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.

In the longer term, regularly drinking too much can cause liver disease, an increased risk of heart attack and a number of different cancers. These problems are now occurring at younger ages as alcohol use has increased.

The healthy choice in the short term is to take just a little extra care to protect yourself and your friends when you are going out drinking. For example, know your own limits and make sure you know how to get home safely.

If you've had a heavy drinking session, you should remain alcohol-free for a full 48 hours to give your body time to recover.

In the longer term, you need to have an idea of how much you're drinking on a regular basis, in units of alcohol, so you can keep your risks low. The NHS recommends that:


  • men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day
  • women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day


Experimenting with drugs can sometimes be presented as part of the student experience but you must never forget that drugs are illegal for a reason. As well as the risks to your mental and physical health, drugs can make you more likely to participate in other risky behaviour.

The legal penalties for drug possession can be severe for some drugs. Possession of a Class A drug, such as cocaine, can lead to up to seven years in prison. Also, your college/university will not look kindly on you if you're arrested for drug possession. Many colleges and universities would ban you from campus, or drop you from your course.

It's not just illegal drugs that you need to be wary of. There are legal substances for sale with potential health risks. The chemicals they contain have in most cases never been tested to show that they are safe for human consumption. Legal highs are substances marketed as similar to illegal drugs such as cocaine or cannabis.

Although they are marketed as being legal, it doesn't mean that they have been approved for use by people, it just means that they are not illegal to use or possess. They are still illegal to sell under medicine legislation. Some drugs marketed as being legal highs contain ingredients that are still illegal to possess.

If you think you are having a serious negative reaction soon after taking a drugs, or you experience problems that do not settle with a little time out, fluids and fresh air, get medical help straight away by going to the accident and emergency department of your nearest hospital​.

If you are worried about any health problems resulting from drugs or alcohol, visit your GP. But if you think further advice would be helpful before deciding whether to visit your GP, call the FRANK drugs helpline on 0800 77 66 00 OR NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

The best way to minimise the risk from drugs is not to use them at all. Failing that, find out as much information as you can about any drugs you're using, including the risks, the potential for addiction and what happens when you mix one drug with another or with alcohol.