This year I entered Drugs.ie “Let’s Talk about Drugs” National Youth Media Awards Competition 2017. Below is my submitted entry if you care to give it a read.
“Stay away from drugs”
This is told to us all from a young age. Yet when it comes to alcohol, the most commonly used drug of them all, the message is far more relaxed. Made up of water and distilled ethanol (ethylalcohol) and produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit or vegetables; it can effect parts of the brain that control movement, speech, judgement and memory. Alcohol is also the most socially acceptable drug to take in society, especially amongst friends and family.
It’s used by many to bring people together. Be it celebrating the end of your exams, sharing a bottle of wine on a first date or having a drink with your family during an overdue reunion.
In moderation and treated sensibly drinking can be a fun and relaxed way to socialise with other people. But it’s when the drug is abused that it can cause problems. It’s the reason you have to end your night short because your friend is too drunk and needs a taxi home; it can also be the thing that caused a family fight over Christmas because too much drink gave a certain relative a loose tongue. It’s why you wake up in a cold sweat in the morning because you don’t remember what you said to people the night before.
Often the case is that many people are dependent on alcohol; with the Journal.ie reporting that in Ireland during December last year 4,000 prescriptions were made in the last two years for the drug Nalmefene, which is designed to help alcohol-dependent people give up alcohol. Out of this figure 3,854 requests were made for the drug.
Sometimes without realising it, we become dependent on drinking as a way of interacting with others. Emma, 19 a student in NUIG found this was how she felt and decided last year that she wanted to give up drinking and experience social events without feeling like she needed the crutch of alcohol.
“I decided to quit drinking after an awful night out where I drank too much; after a month of this I realised I actually missed drinking when I was with my friends. I had been using it as a way to fit in and not worry while socializing. That was the main factor behind me embracing the idea to quit altogether, because I didn’t want anything affecting or manipulating my fun”, Emma explains.
Making the decision to abstain from drinking opened Emma’s eyes to how some people rely on drink in social situations with their friends and without it, their own discomfort can quickly be revealed.
“Nights out were a bit odd at first, I did feel left out. From people ordering fancy cocktails to slamming shots and going to dance, I felt side-lined. I was the ‘girl in the corner with the pint glass of water’. A few people have commented their misgivings about me not drinking. One night out I had a co-worker say to me, ‘but how do you not drink?! You must feel so awkward being here right now’. It’s these times though that remind me I’m not the one uncomfortable being sober with drunk friends, they are.”
Like Emma every year many people make the choice to cut down on their alcohol intake. This can sometimes be down to their partners being concerned about their drinking, with Drink Aware reporting that 26% of women and 21% of men are worried about the effects of alcohol on their partner’s health. Drinking doesn’t always have to have a bad effect on relationships though, once both sides show consideration for each other. This is the case for Jasmine Eldred, 23 and an ever-so-often drinker and her boyfriend Richard who has never drank.
“I don’t think it’s a problem at all in our relationship that one drinks and the other doesn’t as I am not a huge drinker. Richard isn’t too fussed by my drinking either. He doesn’t drink simply because he doesn’t like the taste of alcohol,” says Jasmine. “I think for us as a couple our ways of socialising are centred around the outdoors instead of the pub. Sometimes we as people tend to base our experience around the drink, instead of the people and conversations that are happening around you. I think in a way it makes him the better socializer as he’s 100% focused of what’s happening around him!”
Emma and Jasmine are examples of how their drinking doesn’t get in the way of their relationships. Drinking amongst your peers and other significant people in your life isn’t a problem. It’s when alcohol becomes an important factor in these connections that it may be time to revaluate how you treat the substance. Maybe it’s time we rethink the way we interact with others and begin to wonder if the veil of alcohol induced moments was lifted would the relationship be the same?
- Personal Interviews: Emma Horgan and Jasmine Eldred