Alcohol and drinking

Why talk about alcohol?

Well, a little of it may be good for us.

It can lower anxiety levels in anxious people, and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

However alcohol abuse or addiction can have disastrous effects on our health, relationships, social life, academic performance, career and financial position.

Why people drink

Drinking is associated with many social gatherings, and in some cases is a cultural or sub-cultural        expectation. People drink for many reasons including fun, relaxation, avoidance of feelings and problems or unresolved issues from the past, or just feeling lonely or stressed out.

Myths about alcohol

Common myths include a belief that you are not responsible for your behaviour if you are drunk. The University is clear that you are liable for any property or personal damage or grievance that might arise out of your drinking behaviour. Hall contracts and fees are binding for the entire academic year even if you are dismissed from the hall for drunken or disorderly behaviour.

How alcohol affects the brain

Alcohol is a depressant; it slows the brain, gradually switching off the various parts of the brain

The frontal lobes of the brain control judgment, and are usually the first parts to be affected by alcohol. People start doing things they wouldn’t normally do, and become uninhibited. This loss of self-control makes people more likely to give in to impulse and become aggressive or sexually  inappropriate. Shame and embarrassment can follow when sober. 

Effects on motor areas of the brain include slurred speech, staggering and spilling drinks. Perception changes include distortion of ability to judge depth or speed, so you may be confused about speed of oncoming cars.  As hearing (and vision) are affected, you may notice people speaking louder and louder as they drink.

Eventually, with enough alcohol intake vital brain areas responsible for consciousness and heart and lung function are effected. Passing out and paralysis occurs, and sometimes even death by alcohol poisoning.

Warning signs of an alcohol problem

Drinking can be a problem when it poses a serious health risk, or the behaviour associated with your drinking interferes with your life in some way. This can be in terms of your ability to sustain healthy relationships, function effectively at work, study or socialise. It may also negatively affect the way you manage your finances and meet your personal commitments.

What do I do to look after myself?

Some people choose not to drink. If you do choose to drink responsibly then:

  • Limit consumption to match your body size and remember it takes on average an hour to metabolise or process each drink
  • Always have food before and during any drinking
  • Do not mix drinks, put your drink down out of sight, or take drinks from strangers
  • Have a sober or "safe" driver plan before you go out, and don’t go to parties alone
  • It is important to objectively assess the impact on your life of your drinking. Asking a trusted friend or family member for their opinion may help but sometimes a doctor or counsellor might be more helpful
  • Recognise that while social drinking is fun, co-operative and respectful of the rights of others, drunken behaviour is offensive, destructive, degrading and  disrespectful to yourself and others

More information or advice on alcohol can be obtained from doctors and other health professionals such as counsellors. Alcohol and drug units are found in city hospitals, and community support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can be found in your local telephone book under "Personal Help Services."

Self check

You may like to check out what you are doing or can do to help yourself drink responsibly.

I am:

  • Matching my drinking with my body size and gender (women metabolise alcohol more slowly than men)
  • Eating at parties and limiting drinks to one per hour
  • Choosing not to drink (when I drive) otherwise, arranging a sober driver
  • Taking responsibility for my own drinks
  • Monitoring the impact of my drinking on my study, relationships, finances and work
  • Respecting others’ property, rights and choices

Or use these links for other self check scales:

Tips on how to ease up*


Pace yourself

  • Know how much you have drunk
  • Don't mix your drinks
  • Make them singles
  • Start later
  • Try a ‘spacer’ not a ‘chaser’
  • Take smaller sips
  • Put your glass down between sips

Distract yourself

  • Occupy yourself
  • Drink for taste
  • Change your drink

Look after yourself

  • Make sure you eat
  • Learn to refuse a drink
  • Have days of rest

Copyright notice© Crown copyright 2008, Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand

If you would like to make an appointment to see a counsellor to learn more about this topic please contact the counselling service on your campus.  Distance students can contact any one of the campuses.

Please tell the receptionist if you need an urgent appointment.

Albany: Health and Counselling Centre Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm. Telephone (09) 213 6700.

Manawatu: Student Counselling Service, Turitea Campus, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm (8.30 - 4.30 during semester breaks). Telephone (06) 350-5533.

Wellington: Student Counselling Service, The Student Services Trust @ Wellington, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 4.30 pm. Telephone (04) 801-2542.

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey