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Emma - Interview 17

Age at interview: 19
Brief Outline: Emma thinks that younger students drink alcohol because they are living away from home for the first time, and it's easily available. They are young and immature and can often lose control, which can put them in a vulnerable situation.
Background: Emma is a first year university student and is on a University sports team. Heavy drinking every week is part of team building. She tries to be responsible by knowing her limits with alcohol. Ethnic background: White British.

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Emma has never felt the need to get involved with drugs, but started drinking alcohol at about fourteen. She would drink with friends at house parties, joining in just for the sake of getting drunk and having fun. She thought that she became more responsible with alcohol as she got older, realising her limits and sticking to them. But when she went off to university, she again felt the need to join in to drink. Drink is cheap at University and there are lots of opportunities for drinking. She does a lot of sports, and the sports societies are quite heavy drinkers and enjoy going out and having drinking games. She does have friends who don’t drink, which she thinks helps control her behaviour.
 
Emma says that people who have had no experience of alcohol growing up are the most likely to drink heavily at university. She thinks that younger students drink alcohol because they are living away from home for the first time and have the freedom to drink as much as they want, but lack the maturity to control it. She never wanted to get into drugs because of the effects on her sports performance. She won’t drink if she has a big sporting event the next day, though heavy drinking every week is part of team bonding. Again, she tries to be responsible by knowing her limits with alcohol.

She says that there is a lot of pressure on the girls to keep up with the guys, especially for those who are competitive. They can’t drink as much, and it makes them vulnerable, especially when they go clubbing. She finds it scary when girls drink too much and lose control. Some students drink every day, and it is difficult to see which ones have a drink problem. If there was someone with a particular problem, there are places at university to get help such as the Student Union or Nightline.

Emma thinks that young people need to be made aware of the dangers of alcohol, and at a young age, in school. Maybe visits to schools by a GP or someone of authority speaking to 13 or 14 year olds. She advises others not to drink too much, “…it’s not fun, you feel horrific, other people have to look after you and they will, hopefully. …it’s just not a good situation…”  
 

Emma says that being caught drunk by the police or your parents doesn’t really get you in any serious trouble, unlike getting caught with illegal drugs.

Emma says that being caught drunk by the police or your parents doesn’t really get you in any serious trouble, unlike getting caught with illegal drugs.

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Yeah as a young person you would be like if I was involved with drugs the potential punishment and consequences of being involved with drugs are so much worse than those of alcohol, so it’s a, you know, I would go and drink instead because if you get caught drunk or drinking underage what do you get? You know, a slap on the wrists, the Police call your parents, not good, admittedly no-one wants to be in the situation but it would seem like the consequences would be less severe so it, yeah that’s probably why people drink more I think, and the availability potentially of alcohol is easier than drugs but then I wouldn’t really know because I’m not looking for drugs [laughs]. 
 

Emma finds information online if she is worried about something. She says she would maybe also...

Emma finds information online if she is worried about something. She says she would maybe also...

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If I was worried I would turn to the internet, I would just search it I think, that’s probably where most people would go, and I’m sure there’s, I mean like ‘Youthhealthtalk’ [laughs], there’s good websites available with information and help and then I think you take it from there, you would talk to your other friends about it and just, you know, ask if they’ve noticed anything, yeah I think there is, there is a, there’s enough if you wanted to find the resources to help someone out, I don’t think you would feel like, there wasn’t what you were looking for, there’s, you know, there’s the resources available for you if you wanted them I think.
 
What do you think a website should have that would be relevant, useful?
 
Contact numbers, other, yeah other websites maybe [sighs].
 
Okay, what about the quality of information? Where would you, which type of information would you trust?
 
I think you look for perhaps names you know, I think would be something or like websites with credibility behind them, and researchers or, you know, what, scientific fact, you know? But I, I think on the whole you would be, it wouldn’t be, you know, you would, I think you would trust what information you
found on the internet, if there was you know the first out of ten million it, you know, you would hope that it was a site that other people were using as credibility, you know, knows what it’s talking about, and I think as an aspect of commonsense to knowing, you know, maybe you could talk to your GP, I, I think you, you would betrustingand you would know what to look for.
 
Okay so you, you would talk to a GP?
 
If you were at a point where, you know, if the website had said go talk to a GP about it, if then you might do that, but I think you would look on the internet first I’d. 
 

Emma thinks it’s important to know that your parents are there for you, if you need help.

Emma thinks it’s important to know that your parents are there for you, if you need help.

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Did your parents talk to you about alcohol when you were growing up?
 
When I was growing up? well the thing is, I think it’s very different now from growing up now than when my parents were young obviously, because you have things like the internet, social networking, mobile phones, you know, meeting up with your friends, organising things is just so much easier and so when you’re with your friends you will be together and drink and whatever so I think perhaps, and the cultures change as well there’s this teenage, there’s, going out, there’s, you know, I think it’s all been built up a bit more so I think it’s, they do talk to me about it, I mean you know alcohol has always, it’s been in the house and it’s fine, it’s not really been an issue, but I think that perhaps parents aren’t best educated about where young people are at now, and what it’s like to be a young person now, and that’s another thing that maybe could change.
 
But what did your parents say to you at that time?
 
There was never a sit down talk, “Let’s talk about alcohol.” To be honest I think there was, not naivety but just not an awareness of what a social life meant at sixteen, you’re growing up much faster and earlier than you, you know, ever have done before and maybe they didn’t understand as much, they do now I mean I’ve talked to them about it it’s fine. I shared, you know, what went on and all that, but I think at the time they weren’t aware as much of what was going on, and I don’t, I don’t know if the best thing would have been, like I don’t think saying, “Oh you can’t go out anymore.” I know it’s, you know you’re going to go to a park and drink a bottle of wine, whatever, I don’t think that necessarily would have worked it just would have caused a lot of resentment, but I think just being, instead being there for you if you need them, is what, it’s that I think is the parent’s role that’s what it needs to be.
 
 

Emma's boyfriend doesn't drink so that helps her say no to alcohol because she doesn't want to...

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Emma's boyfriend doesn't drink so that helps her say no to alcohol because she doesn't want to...

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Do you have a boyfriend at the moment?
 
[Affirmative noise] yeah.
 
Okay what about in relation to alcohol and to?
 
Well you see for me he is, he is one of the people who doesn’t drink
 
And, anyway and yeah so my boyfriend actually doesn’t drink at the moment, which again makes it easy to say no to alcohol because I don’t want to be completely inebriated and acting like an idiot, so that’s another support that I have...
 
So when you go out with him?
 

I would be like, I’m drinking tonight or I’m not drinking tonight, I’d tell him and whatever would be fine, it’s not an, it’s not an issue, at all it’s just another part of the whole thing [slight laugh]. 

 

Emma says looking out for your friends means telling them if they’re drinking too much.

Emma says looking out for your friends means telling them if they’re drinking too much.

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I think the case there is look out for each other, maybe that should be something that’s encouraged, you know, the idea that you’re each looking out for each other, not just holding your friend’s hair back over the toilet but maybe more than that, watching how much each other’s drinking, knowing each other’s limits, knowing what each other can handle, and also being aware of, I don’t know, guys around that, you know, perhaps don’t have the most honourable intentions. Maybe that would a good approach to take of the, the kind of, take the kind of social side of, you know, drinking together and turning that into looking out for each other, and maybe this is how you should look after them if they’ve done too much, you should try and stop them from drinking too much, that might be more of a motivation than looking after yourself [slight laugh], if you know that people are watching out for you it might, you know, make you feel, you know, try to be more responsible because everyone, you know, to be the person looking after someone who’s really drunk the next day they can’t be more thankful, and you feel terrible to have impeded on someone by being in an absolute state and an embarrassment to yourself, you feel like an absolute idiot to have done that to a friend, you know, to ruin their night, and to have them have to take you home and make you drink lots of water and, you know it’s, maybe if that was emphasised the idea that you’re not just affecting you’re night you’re affecting all your friends night as well, that might be perhaps a good approach to take.
 

Emma wasn’t interested in drugs but when it came to drinking alcohol, she definitely wanted to 'join in the fun'.

Emma wasn’t interested in drugs but when it came to drinking alcohol, she definitely wanted to 'join in the fun'.

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Right well for me the main pressures haven’t really been concerning drugs, socially a couple of my friends have been smoking Weed but it’s not, it’s not a big part of my life, and I’ve never really felt the need to, to, you know, get involved with drugs. And, but when it comes to alcohol there’s definitely, definitely been some pressures and some, you know, experiences that I’ve had. And I guess it kind of started quite early on, probably when I was about fourteen or fifteen, I think that’s around the first time that I was a bit tipsy. and it’s at various people’s house parties, you know, either their parents go away or their parents are quite relaxed about alcohol and teenagers, and you just find yourself being really quite stupid [laughs] you find yourself drinking for the sake of getting as drunk as you can as quickly as you can. and there’s a massive panic because obviously you’re underage and so every, you know, there’s not that much alcohol so you’re consuming as much as you can as fast as you can, and you’re not really you’re what, you know, you’re not thinking about what it’s doing to you as a fourteen, fifteen year old you’re just having fun and joining in. And it’s you, you get, you get really silly with it you just, I mean I think when I was fifteen you find a bottle of Pimms and you think ‘this is great’ and you just drink it neat and it’s not fun [laughs]. But it’s okay it’s alcohol so you’re joining in I guess .
 
What do you mean joining in?
 
Well it’s a [noise] we got this word peer pressure I guess but it’s funny it’s not like everyone else is saying, “Go on drink, drink, why aren’t you joining in?.” It’s kind of like you want to join in, it’s fun, it’s something new, but you just, you’re not thinking really about what it’s doing to you as a fourteen year old you know? So I guess that’s really my first experiences of alcohol. And then you kind of grow up a bit, maybe [laughs], and you kind of perhaps are more, are starting to be more responsible with alcohol, you know?  
 

Emma thinks that clubbing and drinking cheap shots and cocktails is fun and part of being young.

Emma thinks that clubbing and drinking cheap shots and cocktails is fun and part of being young.

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Yeah, well I mean a lot of people have just turned eighteen, so they’re going clubbing for the first time and, yeah you’ve got these cheap, cheap shots, cheap drinks, loud music, good time, everyone’s looking gorgeous and, a kind of a drink goes with that, I mean my sober friends night out, they still have a really good time, you know you don’t need to drink to have fun, but it just also again turns into, I need to be drunk, everyone else is drunk, you know, I’m not going to have a good time if you can see that the club looks an absolute mess, everything smells and [laughs] it’s not perhaps the nicest place in the world but, people just, you just drink you know? You’ve got shots of whatever and, cheap cocktails and, it’s just part, it’s just part of it, part of the Uni thing and even just like, even if you’re not at Uni it’s just part of being a young person and being, you know, newly exposed to clubbing and alcohol and all sorts of things, yeah.
 

Emma says that boys sometimes get a bit aggressive if they are drunk but that people are usually really kind to a girl who is crying, upset or drunk in a club.

Emma says that boys sometimes get a bit aggressive if they are drunk but that people are usually really kind to a girl who is crying, upset or drunk in a club.

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Okay well I personally am quite a talkative person, and I laugh a lot at anything and everything and I think that’s exaggerated when I’ve been drinking, I’m quite confident but [xxxxx] everyone gets more confident, so I’m talkative, I’m loud, I’m chatty , I think but I mean some of the guys get quite aggressive, or grumpy, or irritating I mean they’re close friends so, yeah love them to bits but some of them do, are very annoying drunk people and in a club guys get more aggressive, a fight can be started very easily and usually everyone else, well I don’t know I’ve never been in a club where I felt particularly uncomfortable or in danger, but I think people are more aggressive and a fight can be started more easily when people have been drinking. And my girlfriends there’s the, there’s the crying drunk person, maybe if they’re have had a hard day or if they’ve just broken up with their boyfriend or whatever it is , they, there will be a girl sitting in the corner of the toilets, the girls toilets crying, in a mess, but then it’s almost, it’s almost really nice because then a girl you’ve never met before, you know, you’ll see her crying and you’ll be like, “Are you okay?.” And everyone’s, you know, being really friendly and nice, there’s this general help each other out attitude if you see someone upset or if you see someone too drunk you, you tend to see people helping them or, you know, you go over and you’re like, “Are you okay? Can I do anything?” people, and depending, [mmm] they will each other out if someone’s really upset everyone gets friendlier so that tends to be okay, the guys get, yeah, guys can get more aggressive but funny, I don’t know it’s just, it depends on the day, it depends on the people you’ve got around, and I just get very talkative and loud [laughs].
 

Emma knew a girl who died as a result of a tragic drink driving incident.

Emma knew a girl who died as a result of a tragic drink driving incident.

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Well, you know, just drinking too much, you know you’re just, you’re sick, it’s, that’s just nasty, and even if it’s not you and it’s a friend, it’s just you don’t like seeing your friends like that and it’s worrying, and you don’t know if you want to go to hospital with them, I mean I’ve had friends that have been, when we were fifteen, they’ve gone to hospital to have their stomach pumped and, I know [laughs], it’s, and it’s, it’s not fun, and it’s nothing to do with bad, well, you know, I would say personally being on this side of it, it doesn’t seem to be anyone in particular due to bad parenting or, you know, anything like that, it’s just, the culture of it at the moment, the culture of being a young person is this, this, this drinking and this, you know, joining in and you know if you do it sensibly, I don’t necessarily think that it’s a terrible thing, but it’s just that, I think it’s not sensible, a few too many times and there’s been a few too many people in the corner of the club throwing up and, yeah you do worry about your friends because if they take it too far it’s, you know, it’s not, it’s not nice so it’s quite scary because you don’t know what’s going to happen to them, really.
 
I’ve been unlucky enough to know someone that was in a car accident because of drinking and if, a girl was killed in fact so, as a, like, as a young, she wasn’t a close friend but I know people that were very, very close to the girl that was killed and, it’s not something you want anyone to go through, at all, and you can’t help but think, I mean to be honest she should, she was drinking and driving you know that’s not, everyone knows that it’s not okay, so, it’s difficult when it gets to the other extreme things can go very wrong and it’s just tragic, absolutely tragic .
 
 

Emma thinks that parents and others should acknowledge that people are drinking at a young age, whatever the law, and that alcohol is readily available to them.

Emma thinks that parents and others should acknowledge that people are drinking at a young age, whatever the law, and that alcohol is readily available to them.

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Drinking age limit or not they will be able to go out and get alcohol, and, I think people have to be aware that, if they want to think of it as a problem and I think it probably is then, but they just have to be aware, it’s naïve to think that people aren’t drinking from a young age, people now probably at thirteen are going to some park with a bottle of Vodka they’ve managed to, I don’t know, take from their parents’ cupboard or an older sibling’s bought for them, or, you know whatever it is, they will be able to get hold of the alcohol and they will drink so there needs to be this awareness of, eighteen would be an ideal, you know, it’s not, it’s not like that, it’s not like that at all, so that that needs to be understood, and parents need to understand that as well, they need to understand that if they are able to talk to their children about alcohol that would probably be better, you know? If you , if you are in a situation where, you know, you’re a young person and you have been drinking too much, if you know that you can go and be like, “Mum, Dad, I’ve drunk too much I need to go to hospital.” If you had that position I think that every parent would probably see that that is better than a young person thinking ‘I can’t go home right now I’m too drunk, I’ll go’ you know, somewhere else or whatever. There needs to be an understanding of parents that it’s a, it’s a part of growing up now I guess, and if they can introduce alcohol responsibly in the home from a younger age then I’d say that’s preferable, but I think recognition that young people are drinking is very important.
 

Emma has never used drugs because it will affect her sport performance.

Emma has never used drugs because it will affect her sport performance.

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 Why? Well for me I think it partly had to do with I do quite a lot of sports so I wanted to take care of myself to be in a position where it wasn’t affecting my game or, you know, my coordination or anything like that you know, I don’t know I think it was, it was just not something it never appealed to me and that, as I say I mean with the alcohol it’s almost like, I would say, a substitute in a way, you know? I think that’s possibly it, you know, why go to this extreme to have the sort of fun when you were having fun already using, drinking alcohol? 
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