Binge drinking – starting young in Ireland

Ireland has the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world and when it comes to young people aged between 18-24, we’re at the top of the international list.

That’s not a World Health Organisation statistic to be proud of and proves that our deadly love affair with drink is not abating. Alcohol is still the most popular drug of choice in Ireland by far – with 1,500 people in hospital beds every night as a result of alcohol abuse.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as having six or more standard drinks in one session, which is the equivalent of three pints of beer, or six pub measures of spirits/small glasses of wine.

Of course, binge drinking is not the sole preserve of young people and students – people of all ages are guilty of binge sessions. Think of the last time you drank more than three pints or six spirits – wasn’t too long ago was it?

Starting young

The binge drinking culture starts young; turning 18 is a huge milestone. Now you can vote, give blood, get married, buy cigarettes and get served alcohol. It’s also a stressful time as you face Leaving Certificate exams and ‘celebrate’ by going out on a bender afterwards. That’s binge drinking right from the start.

Off to college and the pressure to fit in and conform is eased by the copious nights out, class parties and events where alcohol is the conversation lubricant.

In Ireland, the social life of a college student is legendary, starting with Freshers Week in mid-September. Student Unions organise these and most students – especially first years – will be out nearly every night making the most of cheaper student drink deals. This is just one of the first of many excuses for students to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

RAG Week is another infamous college fundraiser well-known for binge drinking. ‘RAG’ stands for ‘receive and give’; it is meant to be a charitable week to encourage students to give to charities. However, the only thing many students ‘receive’ is a huge amount of alcohol and it’s definitely ‘giving’ them a terrible hangover.

One of the main reasons for the excessive binge drinking of students and young people is what they call ‘pre-drinking’. This is drinking before you actually go out to the pubs/clubs, a cheaper way to get drunk. Cheap, readily accessible alcohol means many get drunk before they leave the house and go out with as little as €10-20 in their pocket. And who sticks to pub measures when drinking at home?

Cultural norm

When this behaviour is the cultural norm, it’s not hard to see how an addiction to alcohol can easily follow and problem drinking becomes part of adult life. Students need to be careful and better educated on the effects of binge drinking and alcohol abuse at a young age.

Binge drinking – the risks

  • Binge drinking has serious short and long-term impacts on your physical and mental health
  • Too much alcohol in a short time increases risks of accidents, injuries, and alcohol poisoning
  • It severely impacts our judgement and decision-making abilities
  • People are more prone to take risks after binge drinking, which can lead to possible harm and vulnerability
  • Binge drinking is associated with suicide and self-harm

Most common symptoms of alcohol abuse:

  • Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
  • Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress, or feel normal
  • Choosing drinking over other responsibilities and obligations
  • Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members
  • Drinking alone or in secrecy
  • Feeling hungover when not drinking
  • Changing appearance and group of acquaintances you hang out with


 Tabor Group

Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and food. For more information on Tabor Group’s services click here.