Student drinking on the rise despite economic hardships, survey reveals

A survey conducted by The University Observer has revealed that the number of UCD students drinking excessive amounts of alcohol has risen since the recession.78 per cent of students surveyed said they suffered memory loss as a result of alcohol consummation on a night out, in comparison with the 67.9 per cent of students who answered positively to the same question asked by this newspaper as part of a similar survey in April 2009.Students were asked how many alcoholic drinks they would normally consume on a night out, with 48 per cent admitting to consuming six or more drinks per night and 28 per cent saying five to six drinks.The results also revealed that 89 per cent believe alcohol is an inherent part of university culture.The number of students taking illegal drugs is also on the rise, with 45 per cent admitting to engaging in this activity, compared with 41.8 per cent in the survey conducted two years previously.Of those who answered positively to the drugs question, 77 per cent said they had taken cannabis, 10 per cent had taken ecstasy, 13 per cent had taken cocaine and 9 per cent admitting they had used LSD. 91 per cent of drug takers said it was relatively easy to acquire drugs, while 43 per cent said they had little difficulty obtaining them on campus.The University Observer spoke to Students’ Union Welfare Vice-President Scott Ahearn, who said he was not surprised at the results, describing it as being commonplace in student life. However, he expressed his belief that students should become involved in activities besides alcohol, such as cinema and debates held by various societies on campus in the evenings.Ahearn spoke of the difficulties in promoting the message of sensible drinking and said he believes that to have any major success, a national campaign must be mounted: “USI need to focus on this a lot more. You need it at national level. A ‘by students, for students’ approach. Drink Aware is quite a good organisation,” he said, adding: “It is a difficult campaign. It is not just telling people ‘don’t drink’.”Ahearn said that the drug-related results produced by the survey were “worrying” and of the two, he feels that that “drugs more so than alcohol” was the biggest problem.With the intricate link between alcohol and Irish culture, Ahearn is adamant that society as well as university life is answerable for the fact that 70 per cent of those surveyed said they felt under pressure to consume alcohol at social occasions.“It’s not a difficult question. It’s society. We all do it. Go to any major Irish town and you probably have more pubs than any other business. I come from a town where there’s 55 pubs – double the amount of pubs than restaurants.”The survey, which was distributed on campus last week, had over 320 responses.