The latest NUS publication on HE students’ relationship with alcohol included concerning figures: reports that 50% of students are drinking alcohol at least once a week, 40% of students believe that getting drunk means they will have a great night out, and 79% of students surveyed agreeing that drinking and getting drunk are part of university culture.
However, increasing numbers of students are refraining from binge drinking. These students might be teetotal for religious reasons, decreasing the amount they drink due to health issues (common medications negatively interact with alcohol, but these warnings are disregarded by many students who don’t want to miss out on drinking), or might be participating in Go Sober for October – a fundraising initiative in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Maria Marr, President of the Sober Socials Society, said that “I’m taking part in “Go Sober for October” because it’s a good opportunity to raise money for charity and promote alcohol awareness, while being mindful of how my own drinking habits affects my physical and mental health.”
Newcastle is undeniably associated with clubbing; the university even attracts new students by promoting the clubbing scene and how enjoyable it can be. Drinking is considered an integral part of the clubbing experience - whether it’s trebles in Sinners, buckets at Rise, or cans at Rebel. Naturally, before a night out in the Toon there is pre-drinking at a friend’s house. The units and the pounds pile up, the hangovers and missed lectures are simply a typical aspect of the university experience.
From Freshers’ Week to graduation, university normalises drinking and sober students are a confusing anomaly amongst their peers who might not understand that it’s entirely possible to enjoy nights out without pounding shots of tequila. Last year Charlotte White founded the Sober Socials Society precisely because of the reliance on alcohol, throughout societies on campus: “As someone who has never been interested in drinking, I found it difficult to meet likeminded people, with most societies using bar crawls as their socials. I decided to set up my own society, Sober Socials, where we are dedicated to providing regular non-drinking socials as an alternative to nights out, for people of all reasons, whether you drink but want an easier way to make friends, or are teetotal and want an environment you're comfortable in. The more people engage in non-drinking socials, the less people feel the need to rely on alcohol to be social.”