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You can't help anticipating the weekend fun on Friday mornings, and you count the minutes and the hours to Friday night, when you'll be able to join your friends for a good time.

Sometimes you meet in cafes, sometimes you meet for soccer; what counts is that you meet, play, gossip, talk, laugh, and unwind!

If you're old enough, you may meet your friends at a bar and end the night in a club, where there's dancing, music, and drinks.

Some of your friends may drink alcohol to relax and have a good time, or they'll say they like the taste of alcohol, or even declare that drinking makes you a "grown up".

In any case, you've probably already witnessed some of them piling the drinks, their speech getting more and more slurred and their dance moves becoming less and less graceful.

 


You've probably even witnessed a couple of your friends going from funny to annoying, and all the way to aggressive or embarrassing.

So why do people drink when they all know it can make them temporarily unwise (alcohol-induced fights, reckless behaviour such as unsafe sex, hangovers) or permanently harmed (drunk driving accidents, alcohol poisoning)?

The truth is, we've been led to think that alcohol is FUN.

Whether it's a person, a party, an event, or simply a get-together with buddies, we've been told they're all much more fun when there's alcohol involved.

It's an idea that's very hard to debunk, as many people continue to believe it even though they know the many negative effects alcohol consumption can have on the mind and body.

But is it possible to avoid alcohol without missing out on the fun? Is it possible to tell our friends about the dangers of binge drinking without spoiling the party?

The solution is to be informed.

By being informed you can protect yourself against common misconceptions and even become a source of knowledge for your pals.

If, for instance, you know how ads are designed to sell you a particular product or lifestyle, then you'll be less likely to blindly follow what they say.

Alcohol is a product like any other! That's why marketers, advertisers, alcohol companies, nightclub owners, supermarkets – basically anyone that profits from each bottle of alcohol that's sold – work hard to relay the message that alcohol is no big deal and a source of fun.

We're not talking spooky conspiracy theory here, we're talking about a huge industry which spends millions of dollars each year to make sure you'll have a favourite brand of beer or a favourite bar to hang out in.

If you really think about it, it's much more sneaky than that; we not only think it's fun to drink alcohol, we are actually led to think that the fun we're having without alcohol is not real fun. It's just boring fun.

It may sound silly when you say it like that, but if you really think about it, all the very funny, creative, and original ads we see around us mislead us into believing that alcohol is harmless and glamorous.

This is because advertisers use some very simple tricks to get their message across:
  • They get your favourite celebrity to endorse a brand;
  • They figure out what makes you giddy or what makes you insecure and then use it against you;
  • They try to create emotional connections between you and their product;
  • They use glamour and sex appeal;
  • They promote the idea that with alcohol come friends, fun and excitement;
  • They make it seem like everyone’s doing it, so it must be hip or cool;
  • They use a lot of humour;
  • They portray drinkers as independent individuals whose free-thinking is admired by all.

These are only some of the techniques that are used in every single alcohol-related ad you will ever see. That's why it's important to be informed!

For example, many people think that "binge drinking" refers to people drinking large quantities of alcohol in very short periods of time, so that they get very drunk very quickly.

That is indeed one side of the issue.

But many people don't know that the official definition of "binge drinking" is when people have more than 3 standard alcoholic drinks in one sitting for women and more than 4 for men.

And just what's a standard alcoholic drink? It's the estimated equivalent of a regular can of beer (330 ml), 1 glass of wine* (100 ml), or 1 nip of spirit (30 ml)!
*height of glass=15cm

Being aware of such facts is what allows you and your friends to manage your alcohol intake.

Here are some more tips to limit your alcohol intake and to reduce its negative effects:
  • Keep track of how many drinks you've had. If you have a tendency to lose count, get a friend to help you.
  • Control who gets to refill your drink: it's either you or a friend you trust to look out for you.
  • Set a limit for yourself and stick to it. For example, you can make a pact with your friend not to exceed more than 2 drinks a night.
  • Be assertive – don't allow anyone to make you drink more than your limit.
  • Work that drink. Move around, dance, or chat with people instead of sitting down and just drinking.
  • Have a "spacer" by alternating between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
  • Drink slowly. If you're thirsty and need a quencher, drink water or something non-alcoholic.
  • Avoid playing drinking games. But, if you decide to take the risk, be sharp – stay within your limit and bow out when you need to!
  • Eat before and during drinking, but avoid eating food that makes you thirsty.
  • Do not leave your drink unattended in order to prevent others from spiking it.
​Remember, the key is to use the knowledge you have to make informed decisions, especially if they can have an impact on your wellbeing or on the wellbeing of someone you care about.

Never do something you feel uncomfortable with, especially if it's potentially harmful to your health.