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Alcohol: Expectations vs Reality

In UK culture, alcohol is everywhere, advertised as we move around towns and cities, displayed as we shop in supermarkets.

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It's alcohol awareness week and we are focusing on the presence of alcohol in society and the possible harm it can do.

Inspired by this, here are some expectations vs reality about the UK’s most widely used recreational drug, along with tips on how you can turn to the facts in order to reduce the risk of alcohol harm to yourself and those around you.

Expectations: alcohol will help me sleep.

Reality: alcohol can have a drowsy affect but the sleepiest thing it will do is relax the muscles in your upper airways, making it more likely that you will snore.

You may feel like you drift off to sleep quicker after a drink or two, but the quality of your sleep will be very poor and, once the drowsy effect has worn off, you’ll find yourself waking up more often.

After a disturbed nights sleep you may turn to stimulants like coffee or energy drinks to get you through the following day of lectures, meaning that your next nights sleep will also be disturbed. And so begins an unhelpful cycle of bad sleep.

Try reducing the amount of alcohol you drink and stop drinking near to bedtime to help with a better nights sleep and higher energy levels   

Expectations: alcohol will make me better at sex.

Reality: being a bit tipsy can in the short term make you feel more confident and relaxed however alcohol does not actually improve sexual performance.

If anything, drinking too much alcohol can reduce your ability to have sex.

When drunk you are more likely to experience problems getting an erection or ejaculating, vaginal dryness or loss of libido. In the long term, regular overuse of alcohol can lead to shrinking of the sex organs, reduce of sperm formation and general menstrual problems.

Of course, there is also the issue around lack of judgement and self awareness when you’re drunk which may lead to you doing things you wouldn’t normally do, like having unprotected or unsafe sex.           

Sober sex increases sensation, improves quality of communication and overall leads to better relationships and a more fulfilling sex life.   

Expectations: I’m healthy and active so drinking alcohol won’t effect me.

Reality: drinking small amounts of alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle is relatively low risk, absolutely nobody is immune from the harm that alcohol can do.

Whether you’re drinking small amounts regularly, or large amounts every now and again, you are still increasing your long term risk of health problems like high blood pressure, depression and possibility of stroke. There are also the day-to-day effects of drinking, including lack of energy, headaches, hangovers and poor sleep.

Try making some small changes, like keeping track of how much you drink or mixing it up a bit when you’re out with some low or no alcohol options.

Always remember, there is no pressure to join in every time you’re around people who are drinking.

Expectations: People with alcohol problems only have themselves to blame.

Reality: whilst it can be all too easy to judge people and their actions, life is not that straightforward.*

Alcohol is advertised, encouraged and sometimes forced upon us. Alcohol is all around us and absolutely anyone can experience problems with it at any time.

Even if you don’t drink yourself, you will more than likely know and care about someone who drinks or is affected by alcohol. Putting the blame on them is not helpful and is more likely to mean they don’t get the support they need and deserve. There is no shame in struggling, or in asking for help. There are plenty of safe spaces out there who can support you or those you know.

Visit Alcohol Change UK for more detailed information on the and facts of alcohol harm.
Check out Your SU’s Safety Around Drugs And Alcohol page for all the info on safer drinking as a student as well as where to find support services near Coventry University’s many campuses.




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