University of Windsor students warn about drinking dangers on St. Patrick's Day

Clinical psychology doctoral students at the University of Windsor say St. Patrick's Day can come with drinking problems for young people. They say an increase in student mental health struggles can cause young people to rely on accessible alcohol for treatment.

Long term effects of binge drinking include dependence and organ damage

Bricin Stiker Lyons enjoys his green beer at the Blarney Stone. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

As St. Patrick's Day begins and the green beer starts flowing, warnings about the dangers of drinking are coming from an unexpected source — university students.

Dragana Ostojic and Lauren O'Driscoll are clinical psychology students at the University of Windsor. They know just how bad binge drinking can be.

"In the short-term it can lead to injuries or accidents such as driving while intoxicated," said O'Driscoll. "It can also lead to alcohol poisoning or lead to a greater risk of being a perpetrator or victim of sexual assault."

The long term effects are even worse — dependance or organ damage.

University of Windsor clinical psychology doctoral students Dragana Ostojic (left) and Lauren O'Driscoll discussed binge drinking with Windsor Morning Host Tony Doucette. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Binge drinking is defined as having five or more standard drinks for a man and four or more standard drinks for a woman, according to Ostojic. One in five Canadians admit to binge drinking compared to one in three university-age students.

As frontline mental health staff on campus, the students said they've seen an increase in students seeking help. Those who don't seek help often turn to alcohol.

"For a lot of them, binge drinking … is an accessible and somewhat acceptable means of coping," O'Driscoll explained.

Ostojic said she lived off campus in her undergraduate days and recalled meeting up with friends and fellow students for drinks. Alcohol is a normal part of socializing.

O'Driscoll added that living on residence at the University of Toronto she would know at least one person hitting the bars on any given day.

"This is a time where most young people are exploring their independence and freedom so the opportunities are there," explained Ostojic. "Being part of the drinking culture is part of fitting in."

The students supplied some suggestions to help people stay safe and keep from getting sick:

  • Have a plan to get home safely
  • If you're bar-hopping limit the number of drinks at each location
  • Skip the shots — don't mix different types of alcohol
  • Eat before and during a night of drinking