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University students are starting to give up alcohol – for good

By River Reporter Oct 25, 2011

By Emma Hooper

Have you heard of the student so drunk he swallowed his own house key? Or about the group of girls so intoxicated they stole their lecturer’s cat? You have?

What about the student who doesn’t drink at all? Thought not.

A teetotal lifestyle

Students in the UK are renowned for binge drinking. According to Drinksense, a counselling and support service for people with alcohol related problems, 87 per cent of students admit that their experience at university would be boring without alcohol. Yet even though it doesn’t fit with the label or the hype of binge drinking youths, evidence shows more university students than ever now swear to a teetotal lifestyle.

A big, black tattoo of a skull and crossbones emblazoned on her left breast is a permanent reminder to Sammy of why she quit drinking. Sammy needed a pirate outfit, and at 11am still drunk from the night before, a tattoo seemed like the answer.

Today, five years since her last drink, Sammy Robbins is still reaping the benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle.

“It makes me feel physically sick when I remember how I used to flood my body with poison, all in the name of fun. I feel so good without that muck in my body,” she says.

“When I was 20, I could down at least six double gin and tonics a night, five times a week. I would never want to be tipsy. My mission was to get completely wasted and make everything so much more fun,” Sammy says, looking back at her 20-year-old self, dejected.

After spontaneous tattooing and waking up with strange men and broken bones, Sammy decides to turn her life around.

“Being teetotal jetsetted my career. It’s a lifestyle choice that has given me a successful career and life,” says the 25-year-old business and economics graduate from Kingston, now a marketing manager.

Sammy turned her back on booze without any professional help, but it wasn’t easy.

“I did it all off my own back, cold-turkey style. First I just avoided going out as the temptation was too much,” she says. “But gradually, I started going out again and swapping my gins for orange juice. It was really hard. I felt so boring. Now, I still go out, and I’ve learned to enjoy a night without booze.”

Jean Paulton from alcohol rehabilitation organisation Dry Out Now admits that they see more students and other young people than ever.

“It seems they feel pressured to drink at this stage in their lives,” he says.

Drunken disasters

James Denton is a self-proclaimed expert on pouring drinks into plants or toilets without his friends noticing. “You do feel bad when they’ve just spent £3 on you,” the second-year Kingston engineering student admits. “I have been known to leave drinks on the side and deliberately forget about them, or to give them away,” he says, embarrassed.  

The 19-year-old became teetotal a year ago.

“I kept being pulled into drunken disasters,” he admits. “I had my phone stolen in Oceana last year. I was aware, I saw it. I was just too drunk to do anything about it.”

The growing trend for going teetotal is led by celebs such as Gossip Girl actress Blake Lively and singer Ellie Goulding. However, in a society where celebration is synonymous with booze, teetotallers are still looked at with suspicion. Regardless of Brits being heavily influenced by today’s ladette culture, the A-list have made it cool to be sober.


For details of drug or alcohol services for young people in Kingston, please contact

Kingston Young Peoples Substance Misuse Service


Tel: 020 8547 6920

NHS Kingston


Tel: 020 8339 8000

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