Helping you get through tough times

College can a bring a whole load of new experiences and you may want to dive in head first to all of them. There are things that you should be aware of though, for your own safety and wellbeing. 

Pints of beer on a table, with a man gesticulating in the background.This is not to victim blame anyone, in anyway, for over-doing it at any stage. These are just tips to help you with your own and your friends’ safety, while getting the best you can out of the college experience.

Focus on alcohol

A lot of socialising during the college years focuses on alcohol. When meeting new people and feeling a bit unsure of yourself, it can be easy to slip into the habit of using alcohol to boost your confidence and stop feeling nervous.
It is, ultimately your decision how much you drink. But, you know that lots of binge drinking is not good for your health, right?

Know your limits

We all respond to alcohol differently, so know your own limits. There are also numerous factors that can influence the effect of alcohol, such as how much you drink, how quickly you drink it, whether you consume alcohol with other drugs, whether you’re male or female, your mood, your body type, and whether or not you’ve eaten properly beforehand.

Drinking guidelines

Be aware that the recommended guidelines for men are 17 standard drinks and 11 standard drinks for women spread out over the course of a week, with at least two to three alcohol-free days.
So, we’re not saying say ‘no’, we’re saying keeping alcohol in moderation might actually be better for your social life, your workload at college and your overall physical and mental health.

Drugs at college

You may also come across drugs while you’re at college in a way that you haven’t before and be curious.
It can seem like entire groups of friends or people you know look like they base their social life around drink or drugs every weekend while managing to keep up with their college work and have a great time.
Looks can be deceptive, and while it can appear that way from the outside, you may not notice those who aren’t able to manage it all and gradually drop off the scene as it all gets on top of them.

Informed lifestyle choices

Along with any lifestyle decisions you make, inform yourself about different drugs and their effects as a much as possible to make informed choices and weigh up the consequences.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your own personal safety is knowing when you’ve had enough and having a keen sense of how comfortable you are in a situation. Learn to listen to your gut and do your best to get out of any situations that don’t feel right.

Make sure on nights out to look out for friends, ensuring everyone has ways and plans to get home at the end of the night, if you end up being separated from each other.

This post originally appeared on as: Alcohol & Drugs: The Importance of Knowing Your Limits

Recreational drugs have the ability to affect our mood for longer than the initial high. Known as psychoactive drugs, they include well-known examples such as ecstasy, cannabis, magic mushrooms, heroin and even alcohol.

Random colour absractShort-term effects on mental health

As they can stir up emotions and dampen others, these drugs may trigger mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, mood swings, sleep problems and psychosis can all be brought on by psychoactive substances.

Anxiety – periods of severe anxiety or panic attacks can occur. A person’s heart rate increases, they can sweat, have shortness of breath, trembling and panic over losing control.

Sometimes people feel their surroundings are strange or unreal. They can feel they’re losing their sense of reality and their personal identity.

Drug-induced psychosis – psychoactive drugs can cause delusions and hallucinations.

Mood disorders – at times being depressed, maybe feeling sad, tired, restless and irritable. Then at other times feeling manic, being in an elevated mood or having racing thoughts, delusions and being impulsive.

This swinging between high and low could be a mood disorder. It can be caused by many drugs including cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and methadone.

Long-term effects on mental health

Psychoactive drugs can cause ongoing mental health problems. It’s not clear why it happens to some of us and not others. It might be that using a drug triggers an underlying mental health problem.

Cannabis for example, has been linked to schizophrenia, although it’s a difficult link to prove. If you have a pre-existing risk for schizophrenia (which most people at risk are unaware of), there’s a much higher chance that using cannabis will trigger a schizophrenic episode.

These risks are believed to be greater in younger people and those who smoke it more regularly.

Dual diagnosis

A dual diagnosis is a term used when people have two separate conditions – a drug addiction and a mental health problem.

When dealing with both a mental health problem and an addiction it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins.

It’s often not clear which problem came first. For example people going through a tough time may use drugs to cope. This can often lead to more problems.

Using illegal drugs to deal with mental health problems can interfere with a person’s recovery. If they’re taking prescribed medication then other substances could interfere with this.

When talking to a health professional about your mental health, it’s important to tell them if you’re taking any recreational drugs.

Getting help

If you’re going through a tough time and are finding it hard to cope, or if you’re struggling to overcome a drugs addiction, visit our face-to-face help section and our minding your mental health section.

If possible get support from family and friends – it’s hard to do it without them.

You can visit your GP who will be able to help. If you don’t have a GP, you can find one at

There are many local, regional and national services you can contact for help. You can find listings at .

The HSE Drugs Helpline can be reached on freephone 1800 459 459, Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm. They offer support, information, guidance and referral to anyone with a question or concern related to drug and alcohol use. All calls are confidential.

Content on drugs and mental health adapted from

The folks from have given us an outline of this year’s media awards.

The ‘Let’s Talk about Drugs Media Awards’ provides an opportunity for young people to investigate and explore the following topics: ‘Alcohol and sport – who is the real winner?’ and ‘Weed and health – are we making a hash of it?’

Let's talk about drugs media awardsDiscussion

The aim of the awards is to encourage public discussion of drug-related issues by inviting secondary school students and aspiring journalists to create a feature about drugs. While this competition targets students, it is open to all over the age of twelve. Entry categories are newspaper article, video feature, audio feature, poster design, and cartoon strip.

Mental health

This year’s topics focus on alcohol and weed – more specifically – alcohol and sport and weed and health. What can be said about these topics from a youth mental health perspective?

Is cannabis consumption among young people contributing to mental health issues – or is this an overstated link? Is sponsorship of sporting events leading more young people to drink or to drink to excessive levels – should we care?


Whatever your thoughts on these topics, get creative and turn them into a winning entry! You could be in with a chance to win one of more than twenty Android tablets or €1,000, and have your work published or broadcast.

Get your entry in by the deadline on Friday, 31 May 2013. For more information and tips on entering go to

It’s not uncommon for people to experiment with alcohol when they’re young. It’s important to know about the effects of alcohol and drugs to keep yourself safe and well.

If you’re having a problem with drugs or alcohol and need some help, there are centres and services around the country there to support you.

Feet and legs in chairsThey can provide information on drugs and alcohol, and counselling in a confidential setting with someone who has experience helping people deal with these issues.

Getting help is really a brave and positive thing to do.

Where to go for drugs and alcohol counselling

Addiction counsellors are generally accessible within community mental health teams, but you will usually need to be referred by a GP or another member of the mental health team.

Contact the Health Service Executive to locate the service in your area, or go to for information, counselling and live support through an online chat and information service. You can also freephone their helpline on 1800 459 459.

For more information on people to talk to, check out the rest of face-to-face help.

If you need to talk to someone now, phone Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email