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Group - Interview 34

Age at interview: 20
Brief Outline: They have all found that drinking at university is very different from drinking at school. They drank a lot more but think that now they are a bit older, and after the first year at university, they will be more responsible with drinking.
Background: Hugh is a first year university student who found that drinking at university was very different from drinking as a teenager. Ben is a first year university student who changed his drinking habits from school, through his gap year and at university. Alex is a first year university student. He drank as a teenager to build his confidence. His drinking habits changed when he started university.

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We spoke to a group of three first-year university students who went to the same school but went to different universities. They started drinking with friends at about thirteen or fourteen, and drank more when they were fifteen and sixteen. They would drink mainly on weekends, and almost daily during the long summer after their GCSEs. At that age they relied on alcohol to have a fun evening. Their older brothers would usually get it for them. They say that then it was much easier to get hold of alcohol at fourteen; from siblings, using someone’s ID, and lots of off licenses would sell them alcohol. They knew certain places where it would be easy to get alcohol.
 
Hugh’s parents would also give him some alcohol, and he felt free to take a couple of beers when he wanted. From a young age he would have a beer or two with a meal. He says that some teenagers would take rum or vodka from their parents and pour it into a plastic bottle and get very drunk, because they couldn’t handle spirits. Alex remembers when he was about fourteen and being in charge of getting some alcohol for a friend’s birthday party. He raided his mother’s cupboard to make a concoction of various spirits, and everyone becoming horribly sick that night. It was also the first time he got drunk.
 
They say that young people drink a lot at music festivals, starting in the early morning, and bingeing every night, sometimes for five days. They say that festivals are the only place they drink that much. They say that it’s nearly impossible to be with a lot of people who are drunk and still have a good a time without drinking, unless you are very confident. If you’re all going out together, drinking brings everyone together. They say that you are less self-conscious and more confident when drinking. They think that young people in the rest of Europe control their drinking better, maybe because they drink from a young age.
 
Their drinking habits changed when they went to university. Ben says that during the first term he was drinking almost every night, and certainly drank a lot more than he ever had before. They all say that it was initially the Fresher Week activities that provided a lot of alcohol, but then going to the student union and the student societies involved a lot of cheap alcohol. They say that alcohol is so much easier to get than drugs, and it is legal. They think that there is a lot of uncertainty in taking drugs. Hugh has tried cannabis but doesn’t like smoking, and says that he probably wouldn’t take drugs without drinking. Ben has very occasionally taken drugs, and always when drinking. But he is afraid of losing control. Alex occasionally takes drugs, but wouldn’t if he was sober. They know lots of people who have been seriously affected by taking drugs, and that most of them have done badly in life.

As they get older, and go on to the next year at university, they think that they will be more responsible with drinking.  
 

Hugh, Alex and Ben discuss alternative activities but think that drinking alcohol is cheaper and fun.

Hugh, Alex and Ben discuss alternative activities but think that drinking alcohol is cheaper and fun.

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Alex' I think there are probably about 3 reasons why I drink. Probably I’ll have it sort of it’s because not to would sort of be unusual for me. To have fun sort of and socialise and probably just to relax so those are probably the three main reasons why I drink.
 
And you?
 
Ben' It’s also like you know, building on that I would say our culture. I mean you go like anywhere and you can’t kind of avoid drinking. So I mean, yeah I mean we know about like one person that like doesn’t drink at our age pretty much.
 
Hugh' There is actually just one.
 
Ben' And...
 
Only one?
 
Ben' Pretty much.
 
Alex' What else is there to do? I mean you just, you can’t avoid it. I mean you go into the city centre at night whatever, I mean...
 
Hugh' Go to the ice rink, you can try it in there [laugh].
 
Alex' Or like in the cinema, the cinema’s like £7 for an hour and a half or you can go to Weatherspoons and buy three drinks which would last probably about...
 
Ben' Drinking is a lot of fun.
 
Hugh' Yeah it’s fun but...
 
Ben' Let’s not forget that it is a lot of fun.
 
Hugh' Yeah it’s fun
 
Alex' I had fun at the cinema the other day without drinking actually.
 
Ben' Yeah, I mean you can have a lot of fun without drinking but also. Maybe it’s just kind of like if you all meet up somewhere and drink a lot you kind of know you’re going to have like a, like a good enough night.
 
Hugh' Definitely
 
Ben' But it’s maybe sort of a failsafe it’s like, ok you could think of like good things to do. But I mean it’s pretty simple just, you know, let’s all meet at a pub or let’s all meet somewhere and let’s get drunk and, you know.
 
Hugh' That’s completely right.
 
Ben' We’re going to have fun.
 
Hugh' But we don’t just. We do do other things apart from drinking. That would be, we’ll play football today for a couple of hours and like.
 
Ben' Yeah and tend to for the evening.
 
Hugh' Yeah.
 
Ben' But yeah I guess yes maybe it’s a failsafe option to have a good night. 
 

Hugh, Ben and Alex describe how drugs, alcohol and sex education were delivered at their secondary...

Hugh, Ben and Alex describe how drugs, alcohol and sex education were delivered at their secondary...

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Hugh' I think it was Year 9. I remember it being Year 9 with friends but obviously with family long before that. And the information was kind of provided by. But we used to have I think was it PHSE, our school used to kind of give us kind of vague information.
 
Ben' Yeah they didn’t really tell us much [um] I don’t think. I seem to remember like our school being quite bad about anything regarding kind of alcohol or drugs...
 
Really?
 
Ben' sex education. I don’t think we were really told that much.
 
Hugh' I think we had it but it was in a lesson which was kind of considered a kind of a doss so to speak. So I don’t think people really took it that seriously.
 
Alex' Yeah.
 
Hugh' It was kind of the lesson, the period where people would kind of relax and it wasn’t that important.
 
Ben' Yeah
 
Ok so the people didn’t take the lessons seriously?
 
Hugh' Yeah. And I don’t think the teachers did it either. It wasn’t really considered. I don’t think we had kind of trained...
 
Ben' It was just like one hour a week or maybe one hour every two weeks.
 
Hugh' I remember having my P.E. teacher used to take it.
 
Alex' Yeah.
 
Hugh' And I don’t think they did anything about kind of sexual health or drugs.
 
What do you think it would have made a difference for you to notice those lessons more?
 
Ben' Maybe like.
 
Hugh' I think it’s the age, at that age. You, what before Year 9 when we were kind of 13 and 14 and still kind of. I mean the videos were all kind of quite, no one took it really seriously. But when we got to 6th form they used to get actual speakers would come in who’d had kind of really, kind of well, big experiences on drugs or something and that would be much more kind of useful because it would be firsthand experience not from a kind of P.E. teacher. That’s what I found. 
 

Group discussion about the drinking culture at University and the reasons behind it.

Group discussion about the drinking culture at University and the reasons behind it.

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Hugh' I think I’m a more immature drinker since university definitely than before. Like I think I drink more irresponsibly than ever before since being at university.
 
Why do you think that?
 
Hugh' Just because like the, the culture the things they promote like these nights, it’s Freshers nights and these kind of sport initiations and...
 
Alex' Probably those other people’s games as well
 
Ben' and games people pick up. You basically mix with people all over the country with all their drinking games, all your ideas and it just, it’s kind of...
 
I mean I have heard about these drinking games. Can you tell me more about these competitions?
 
Ben' That’s, yeah that’s something very common in first term of uni because it’s a good way to kind of meet people I suppose. And it’s something you do if you don’t really like maybe know people as well. Although you could still do it with like your friends but yeah
 
Alex' But we never would like. If you go back to kind of Year 12/13 and even gap year we wouldn’t. Well I don’t remember once kind of just playing these sort of like games stupidly drunk. It would be like a quiet drink maybe.
 
Ben' I think my experience of drinking games is generally they kind of don’t really work and you don’t get that drunk because they just take so long. I mean this isn’t for most people but they just take so long and [ha] they have really kind of, yeah they don’t really work but yeah for a lot of people who kind of I’m sure drinking game would just get you very drunk very quickly.
 
Hugh' I think, I think they work. They’re just really popular at university.
 
Alex' Yeah it’s fun.
 
It’s fun?
 
Alex' Up to a point [laugh].
 
 

Hugh has only ever used MDMA and only uses it at music festivals. His first use was when one of...

Hugh has only ever used MDMA and only uses it at music festivals. His first use was when one of...

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Hugh' I’ve only ever actually done one drug. It’s MDMA and the reason I’ve done that is the first time I tried it was long after other people. It was in Year 13 I think. Like the most ridiculous way because someone thought it would be funny to put it in my drink. I mean like really awful, like a friend. Not a close friend but like and then I had, I was. I could tell I was on it and it, I didn’t feel that bad. And then that is literally only the only drug I’ve ever done since and I’ve only really. I did it a few times at university in London but mostly just at the festival because festivals are a time when it’s like, you know you’re not. You know it’s just a, not an excuse but it’s kind of a...
 
Ben' You do have a different mindset.
 
Hugh' It’s the only slightly acceptable environment where you can behave in that manner, kind of drinking all day.
 
 

Alex, Hugh and Ben say that they don’t think about the risks involved in drug-taking when they have been drinking.

Alex, Hugh and Ben say that they don’t think about the risks involved in drug-taking when they have been drinking.

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Hugh' But I think you’d very rarely take a drug unless you were already drunk and it would be very hard to just be coming in a completely sober state and then take drugs. I don’t think I, I don’t think any one does that.
 
Alex' I, no I’ve
 
Hugh' It would be kind of pretty bizarre experience because you would literally just. It would be horrible actually if anything.
 
Do you have any concerns about kind of what they put into these...?
 
Alex' You see that’s the thing. I’ve never taken it when I’m sober so when you are drunk these concerns don’t cross your mind. I mean if I was completely sober I wouldn’t even consider taking it but when you’re drunk it’s a less bigger deal which is actually in a way more dangerous because there’s a concoction of chemical substances but you don’t really think about that.
 
Ben' Oh yeah when you’re drugged you just tend to think like, ‘Oh what harm can it do. People do it all the time’. Whereas if you’re sober you’re like, you may still think, ‘What harm can it do?’ but it’s like ‘I don’t want to do it.’
 
We have looked at the pros of drinking alcohol and now we can look at the negative side. It gives you a kind of false sense of...
 
Ben' Security
 
...security that you can do drugs. That while you are sober you wouldn’t touch?
 
Ben' Yeah. Definitely 
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