Alcohol & Drugs-Study Abroad - Carnegie Mellon University

Alcohol & Drugs

Culture plays a role in attitudes about alcohol and drugs. In many countries alcohol is much more accessible than in the U.S. In other countries alcohol may be illegal, or at least frowned upon. At the same time, recreational drugs are legal in some countries while highly illegal and penalized in others. Students should determine the cultural norms and laws regarding drugs and alcohol and act accordingly.

Attitudes by Culture

Social drinking is the norm in most of Western Europe compared to norms in the United States. Europeans may feel comfortable drinking earlier in the day or having wine at dinner every night, but they typically drink more slowly and have fewer drinks over all.

Australian beer is stronger than most beer found in the United States. Australians, like Europeans, tend to be social drinkers. They, however, will be used to stronger beer!

Alcohol is illegal in many Muslim countries. Other Muslim countries, such as Qatar, provide drinking permits to non-Muslims.

A Word of Caution

Since attitudes toward alcohol can differ widely from the U.S. and since students may not know what effect it will have, it is important for students to have a strategy for staying safe while abroad. Alcohol and drugs, even if legal, can impair judgment and reduce safety. It is recommended that students go out in groups and never walk home alone at night, especially if impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Also, just because the drinking age is lower does not mean that public drunkenness is acceptable. Ending up in a foreign jail is not the way a student should spend their semester abroad! The U.S. embassy will not intervene. Students caught with illegal substances will pay the penalty, and these penalties are often much more severe than in the U.S. Not knowing the law is not an excuse.

Students who struggle with alcohol or drug addictions now should be aware that studying abroad can often make the problem worse. Loneliness and culture shock symptoms can cause drinking problems. Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings worldwide.