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Drugs and Alcohol (young people)

Reasons for cutting down on alcohol

Mixing drinks and drinking to excess was common among the young people we spoke to but drinking habits often changed as they got older. Joe (21) drinks less now than when he was a teenager, when he got drunk ‘for the sake of getting drunk’.
 

Joe describes how his attitude to drinking has changed over time. Now it’s more about occasional socialising.

Joe describes how his attitude to drinking has changed over time. Now it’s more about occasional socialising.

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Male
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When we were sixteen we first started having alcohol it was, it was all kind of taboo, it was like ‘oh we’re not supposed to be drinking’ and it was, it was nice to go to the parties, and everyone, would have a few drinks and enjoy it, and then when we turned eighteen it was like ‘oh we’re allowed out now, we’re allowed into clubs and pubs’ so we’d go out kind of most weekends , go into all the different clubs in the City and having, yeah getting quite drunk because you can. you know you can legally go in the place and have sixteen pints [slight laugh] if you, if you wanted to, so I think there was a lot of kind of, excitement about being, being allowed to do that at that age, , and as time’s gone on from that probably it became less frequent, we’d, we’d just start going out just once a month and, you know, as opposed to every, every kind of weekend, and the, it would be more a special occasion not just let’s go out and get drunk for the sake of getting drunk because we can it, more it would be oh there’s a good DJ playing or, you know, there’s a good band playing let’s go see them and get drunk. and definitely as, as, as year on year goes on you, you, I don’t really go and get drunk for the sake of getting drunk anymore, and you know I’ll, I’m happy to have a drink but I’d more in, it’s more for the social side than the sake of getting drunk so, definitely happens less often now than it, than it used to.
Health and wellbeing
Alcohol can have a negative effect on health both in the short and long term (See Alcohol and risks to self and others) but many people didn’t seem very concerned about this. However both Peter and Daniel had changed their drinking habits because they were concerned about their problem drinking. Daniel recognised that he was an alcoholic and stopped drinking altogether. Peter decided that he had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and needed to cut down dramatically.
 
Charlie cut down on cider because she gets acid reflux after a couple of drinks. Others were concerned about putting on weight. Harry feels bloated and tired if he drinks a lot of beer. He now tends to drink spirits, which he sees as the lesser of two evils.
 

Harry has gained weight from drinking heavily, he worries about what his liver might be like when he is older.

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Harry has gained weight from drinking heavily, he worries about what his liver might be like when he is older.

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Drinking like binge drinking then you’re not as in control, your liver later on in life, that’s just going to like just going to be ruined the fact that people like, I personally don’t find that when I drink I get aggressive but it’s not me that I have to worry about it’s other people that are around me drinking who get aggressive and want to fight me or want to fight other people who want to fight the world I don’t know, but it’s a bit like that with like with binge drinking and there’s like definitely a worry but it’s more the health, with me personally it’s more like later on in life what’s my body going to be like. And the weight you put on is the immediate affect like you can see oh look how much you’re putting on, how much weight you’re putting on from drinking that much so you notice the effect almost like in the next week or like whatever well with me personally. But it’s the later on effect that worries me more my actual inside organs are going to be ruined.

 

Hangovers
People who worked full-time were put off drinking by the prospect of hangovers; they were keen to make the most of their weekends. Some people didn’t notice hangovers when they were teenagers but found it hard to cope with a headache or being sick when they were at work or looking after children.
 

Mary Ann’s hangovers seem worse these days. Having a son has meant changing her drinking habits (Played by an actress)

Mary Ann’s hangovers seem worse these days. Having a son has meant changing her drinking habits (Played by an actress)

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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So obviously I feel like going ‘I want to’ ‘get para’ but I don’t and I know that it’s not going to solve my problem, and especially because my son’s getting older having a hangover the next day kills me, it kills me, it’s not worth it, so, and I don’t really enjoy going out and getting drunk I see it as a waste of money now. You know, I’d rather go out for a meal with my friends, go cinema, go out for a meal, and we sit and we have a good few bottles of wine or whatever and then go home, instead of going out, spending seventy quid, and it’s a complete and utter waste of money and you can’t even remember the whole night. So my opinion’s changed as I’ve got older, thank God.
 
Okay, so do you, that is something to do with you growing up?
 
Yeah I think that’s, that’s the, that’s more to me doing [xxxxx] especially having my son as well, either it’s more realised I can’t do it no more, one because it actually takes me quite a few days to recover, I can’t afford it, and I do see it as I can’t actually have a hangover the next day with my son because I can’t look after him properly and it physically makes me feel so ill, and I do see it as a waste of money and I would rather be up, ready, out and doing something with him. So I think it’s got more to do with as he’s got older he can do a bit more, so everything’s a bit more fair then, I love taking him over to like, I can’t say it, like a big park or something in like another town and, you know what I mean? Just spending the day over there, and I would rather do something like that.
 
Yeah to a certain extent yeah, but I never sit and get drunk while I’ve got my son never do I sit and do that.
 
No?
 
No, no, no, no.
 
Okay.
 
Well I sit down and obviously if I’m in the house I’ll have a couple of cans of beer or something like that, I can sit and have a like a little drink but that’s the same as anyone sits there and has wine of a night don’t they? Wine’s a lot more stronger than beer.
 
So no-one can sit there and slate me for that one. But if I’m ever going out I always make sure I’ve got a babysitter and he’s out for the whole night and he’s not back till the morning. But obviously people drop him back at like nine in the morning and I’m like, “No, you can’t drop him back at nine.” So I just can’t do it, not unless, and I can’t ask someone to look after him like all day and, all night and all day can I? And it’s not fair on him either is it? And I feel bad when he sleeps away from the house, it’s not his own bed with his own comfort, do you see what I mean?

 

 

Jamie avoids drinking late into the night these days because he doesn’t want to spend one of his precious weekend days feeling hungover.

Jamie avoids drinking late into the night these days because he doesn’t want to spend one of his precious weekend days feeling hungover.

Age at interview: 26
Sex: Male
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The pattern, the behaviour of drinking changes from when you are a teenager to when you are a young man?
 
Yeah absolutely, and like, like a good example of that now is that, for example, last weekend going for a, over for a meal at my friend’s house we were drinking loads of wine and he’s like, you know, “Stay we can you know carry on drinking.” But the next day I wanted to go for a bike ride and so, it was oh well I know if I stay I will carry on drinking till all hours of the morning, but then the next day will be written off, and so it’s oh well, because, I think because you’re working, and you’re working Monday to Friday, those two days that you get at the weekend you appreciate them a lot more, so it’s oh well I don’t want to waste, you know, when I was younger, you know, you’re going to school it’s, you know, your whole seven days a week’s a party isn’t it? So, you know, what’s lying in bed till two o’clock on an afternoon it’s not a problem, you know, I’ll go out, I’ll get drunk till three, four, five o’clock in the morning and I’ll sleep till two, three o’clock in the afternoon and get up and, I, you know, I don’t mind wasting a day at that age but now time is precious because you appreciate those days off, you know, with your partners or your friends.
Relationships 
Moving in with a partner and needing to save money often meant cutting down on evenings out drinking with friends.
 

Kasim and Karis have changed their attitude to alcohol as they have got older. They no longer ‘drink to get drunk’.

Kasim and Karis have changed their attitude to alcohol as they have got older. They no longer ‘drink to get drunk’.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
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Has your behaviour also changed regarding alcohol, how much alcohol do you take?

Kasim' Yeah. You know what, before it was like we would all drink to get drunk.
 
Karis' How drunk can you get sort of thing, you know.
 
Kasim' Yeah but like, you know, spin the bottle and stuff but as we are getting older I feel like you shouldn’t drink to get drunk. You should drink and enjoy the taste of alcohol.
 
Karis' Yeah it is, yeah drinking alcohol is sociable.
 
Kasim' It’s sociable.
 
Karis' It’s meant to be sociable. Drinking at home by yourself is not good, you know. Smoking at home by yourself is not good.
 
Kasim' Yeah it’s not good.
 
Karis' You know like that is what makes you get depressed and things like that.
 
Kasim' But we have definitely cut down.
 
Karis' We realise yeah, we realise a lot.
 
Kasim' Yeah we realise that we used to drink a lot. And I mean like we still, no do you know what, we used to drink like weekdays and stuff, you know,
 
Karis' Yeah nearly every day.
 
Kasim' but now it’s just like maybe yeah we’ll have a bottle of wine, we’ll share a bottle of wine on a Saturday. Why not do you know what I mean.
 
Karis' Over dinner and stuff like that, yeah
 
Kasim' It’s the end of the week like over dinner, stuff like that. But I think you only realise that when you are older that like it’s not good to like drink to get drunk. You know we do get drunk but
 
Karis' When you’re young it’s like ‘Friday is here’, do you know what I mean. And you just go, ask someone to get you as much alcohol as you can buy.
 
Kasim' Now it’s just you appreciate it more if you’re eating nice good food and you’re having a nice bottle of Rosé or Blossom Hill to accompany
 
Karis' Yeah, accompany your meal.
 
Kasim' yeah your meal with you know. But yeah I think my attitude has changed towards alcohol.
 
Karis' Towards alcohol, yeah.
 
Kasim' I’m not that much of a drinker. I’m getting old now so I can’t be drinking and drinking.

 

 

Kayleigh and her partner took the decision to stop drinking. She says that some people aren't supportive of this decision and call her ‘boring’.

Kayleigh and her partner took the decision to stop drinking. She says that some people aren't supportive of this decision and call her ‘boring’.

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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You see because like me and my husband don’t really drink because he’s just got, you know for one reason or another caused too much problems really and I think sometimes when you end up drinking and you’re not having a good time and, you know, it, it brings out sort of aspects of your personality where you’re quite angry and aggressive and then so there’s no point drinking because it’s, you know, you’re just bringing that on so, but my Dad finds it amazing how, you know, how we don’t drink, and sort, he’ll sort of say, “Oh when she’s gone you can have a drink.” Or, “When she’s not here.” You know and really that kind of like you think you would support someone who was making a decision with their life, if someone said, “Oh I’m going to give up Heroin.” And you wouldn’t just go, “No, it’s okay when she’s gone I’ll, you know, I’ll help you jack up.” You wouldn’t say that to them but it’s okay because drinking’s a part of going out, it’s a part of socialising, it’s a part of having fun it’s a part of having friends, so if you don’t drink it’s the word ‘boring’ always comes in, I says, “How can someone be boring?.” I think if, the most boring people are the people who you meet and they’ve just got no personality, and then when they go out and drink, you know, they’re the life and soul of the party, that’s sad because they can’t be that person every day only when they’ve had a drink, that’s the sad part, not the person who can go out and have a good time and doesn’t need to drink but, it’s all.

 

Pregnancy and parenthood
Pregnancy and parenthood were described as powerful reasons to cut down on alcohol.
 
Both Steph and Chloe had grown up with a parent with an addiction and were very aware of the damage this can do in a family. Chloe’s father drank and she didn’t want to be ‘hypocritical’ and be like him. Stephanie, whose mother was addicted to heroin, reflected that you “put people second best when you let an addiction take over”. 
 
Pregnant women are advised to have a good diet, take regular gentle exercise and not to drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs. Stephanie said she wouldn’t drink in pregnancy. Because her mother is a midwife, Jen is aware that drinking, smoking and taking drugs when pregnant is risky for the baby, especially in the first 3 months. Jen is not in a rush to get pregnant because she says she’s ‘not at the place where I’d give up my red wine yet’.
 

As soon as Mary Ann realised she was pregnant she stopped smoking and had almost no alcohol...

As soon as Mary Ann realised she was pregnant she stopped smoking and had almost no alcohol...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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Well I lived in a flat so if anyone ever wanted to smoke or anything they’d have to go downstairs anyway, I wouldn’t have, when I was pregnant I’d given up smoking, I wouldn’t have smoking around me.
 
So.
 
and you stopped drinking also?
 
Yeah I think on New Year’s Eve I think I had a couple of glasses of lemonade and wine, I think out of my whole pregnancy I think I must have had five halves of Guinness and Ribena, and two glasses of wine with lemonade, that was what, all I had the whole time I was pregnant.
 
Why?
 
Because I had something inside me, I can choose to abuse my body but I can’t choose to abuse someone else’s can I? And I felt kind of bad like I, it completely and utterly accidental how I fell pregnant was because I was taking, I stopped taking the Pill, like you have to take it religiously don’t you? Well I kind of, because obviously I wasn’t sleeping with anyone I didn’t really take it, and then the last thing I kind of thought that would happen I started taking it again and literally I fell pregnant two and a half weeks after he came out of prison, but I didn’t find out till I was three months, so obviously those first three months I was still drinking and smoking, but I didn’t know, and as soon as I found out it took me two and a half weeks to quit smoking [slight laugh] and then that was it.

 

Michelle gave up alcohol and drugs when she was pregnant. Kayleigh became aware of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome when she was in early pregnancy.
 

Kayleigh explains that any alcohol that you drink in pregnancy crosses the placenta and has the...

Kayleigh explains that any alcohol that you drink in pregnancy crosses the placenta and has the...

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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Fetal Alcohol Disorder or is it Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? well what we did was, she did a presentation on it and she was saying if you, like basically they used to think that the placenta only used to take in, like the nutrients and that, so if people drank it never necessarily went to the baby but now they believe that anything you drink or eat during pregnancy goes straight through the placenta in, into the baby, actually this is what they believe anyway. And , so basically if you have a glass of wine your child has a glass of wine, so when, if you drink in very early pregnancy, sort of six, seven, eight weeks, nine, ten, you know, early, first trimester pregnancy, that the alcohol affects the way the baby’s brain forms and certain other things. Because what happened once, the woman who was talking about it, I can’t think what her name is so, she was a Paediatrician I believe, and she, they adopted a child and they found out when the child was born that the Mother was an alcoholic and then as the child grew up she had lots of different problems, like, like problems sort of, not so much behaviour problems but like she had problems and they said, if they went into a shop for example, they could, she couldn’t understand that the stuff in the shop she couldn’t take because she knew the stuff in the shop didn’t belong to anyone but she couldn’t understand that she couldn’t just take the things out, like she never had that sort of understanding. And, you know, they had to teach her that if you wanted something from shop you had to go to the woman at the till and ask her and, you know, they, but then that’s, they only had that information becausethey were Doctors you know? I don’t think everyone would know that information.
 

Kayleigh thinks that women are unlikely to tell their midwives the truth about how much they...

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Kayleigh thinks that women are unlikely to tell their midwives the truth about how much they...

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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I can’t remember if it was FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), I think it was FAD (Fetal Alcohol Disorder). But they said that there’s a lot of things about it done in America, it’s quite a big research in America but here it’s not and , you know, the, they need, to make it work they need the Midwives to be onboard but at this point I believe the Midwives aren’t really onboard with it, I don’t know how much, if it’s they don’t believe it or it’s quite difficult because I think they said the only way to diagnose it is for, to find out whether the Mother drank through pregnancy and of course if you’re a heavy drinker you’re going to, you’re not going to tell the truth in case you think maybe Social Services are going to be involved and things like that. But I think, if people are given this information and I couldn’t believe, like I always sort of knew you shouldn’t drink in pregnancy you know? That was, that’s always said but it’s never like a cast iron rule, people are sort of like, “Oh I’ll have one or two.” But when that woman was talking about it I think what can happen to your child, I mean obviously you have to drink a fair bit, it’s not just if you have one glass of wine, it’s sort of if you have maybe a couple of glasses of wine a week but the things that can happen to your child, and I just think how could you, you couldn’t forgive yourself because you knew what you, that directly what happened to that child was directly your fault, direct, you know there’s no other way to say it. But I think, you know, I was, I was very with that woman and I said, “I think this needs to be out there, I think young women should know it, it should, the first thing the Midwife should say is, “How much do you drink?” And then if the person says, “No.” I think it should be said, “Well if you do drink this is what can happen to the baby.” Because they don’t say that to you, you know, the Midwife could say, “Oh do you drink?” “No.” And she’s got no, unless you smell of alcohol or you look drunk she doesn’t know if you’ve been drinking, and of course you’re going to lie because you’re scared that the Midwife is going to phone Social Services.

Leah didn’t plan to get pregnant and ‘went out and got trolleyed’ when she found out. When she decided to carry on with the pregnancy, she stopped drinking. About once a month, when her mother or aunt can look after her baby, Leah goes out drinking with her friends. She drinks less now, partly because she wants her daughter to be able to look up to her.

Last reviewed : July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.
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