MAASTRICHT. If you drink more than twenty glasses of alcoholic beverages a week, are you a problem drinker? The students in the Karl Dittrich hall at Student Services, where there was a discussion evening on drugs and alcohol last Tuesday, are of different minds. “That is about three glasses a day, that is not so much. Then you’re not an addict,” says an opponent. “The standard is two glasses per day for men and one for women, so three is too much,” a supporter replied.
Indeed, three glasses a day do not immediately make you an addict, says Herbert Damoiseaux, addiction prevention officer for the Mondriaan foundation. “Addiction is the final station of a long journey. But if I were to tell you that someone has problems because of alcohol or is trying to drink away those problems, is a problem drinker, what would you say then?” Then three glasses is indeed a lot, the opponent agrees.
The evening, organised by student psychologists, student associations, Mondriaan addiction care and the Maastricht police, is meant to make students more aware about their alcohol and drugs use. Student liaison officer Paul Vermin refers to the consequences of intoxication that the police regularly have to deal with. “When you have had a few drinks, you become more careless with your belongings. Pickpockets know this. We have experienced students lying in an alleyway plastered and then being beaten up and robbed. The next day they want to report the crime, but they cannot tell us where or at what time it happened.”
Students are not always the victims, but also the culprits. “Imagine we stop a student zigzagging along on a bicycle with no lights. He then decides to sing loudly waking up the whole street. Working on the basis that a beer costs €1.50, then this is: 24 beers for missing lights on your bicycle, 60 beers for public drunkenness, and 94 beers for causing a disturbance during the night.”
Is alcohol actually necessary for a good party? Damoiseaux shows a short video in which students are given non-alcoholic beer without them knowing. Nobody noticed it. The students in the hall also feel that they can do well enough without. The odd one disagrees. “One can of course do well enough without, but with the alcohol you have a better party. You become more free and more spontaneous.”
If you intend not to drink, do you succeed in doing so? Or do you give in to peer pressure? About half of the participants in the hall think they are strong enough. “If you really don’t want to drink, then you don’t.” Damoiseaux mentions that peer pressure can be very subtle. A student in the audience confirms that. “For example, if someone offers you a beer while your glass is still half full. You quickly knock back that half glass of beer and accept the new one.” Has anyone every pressured someone else into drinking alcohol in that way, Damoiseaux ask his audience. Practically everyone answers affirmatively.