Alcohol is all around us. It’s a staple in our culture whether you’re out to eat, watching a basketball game, or heading to your friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party. We love the social implications and events that alcohol is associated with. It lets us have at least something in common with the person next to us while taking the edge off so we can have a great night.
However, that culture often leads to lots of binge drinking and alcohol abuse, especially on college campuses. I’d like to discuss the culture surrounding drinking I have experienced on my college campus, health problems associated with alcohol, the positive effects of a nice night out, and some comparisons with other drugs.
Drinking is a big part of college. Alcohol is everywhere: at every party you go to, in lots of conversations, at sporting events, and at tailgates. Most college students choose to partake in drinking. Studies show that nearly 80% of college students drink, and nearly 67% engage in regular binge drinking. These numbers are high, and there are obvious reasons why.
One big one is to relieve stress. Many students choose to go party on the weekends because it’s an easy way to forget about the past five days of hard studying and the tests that you had to take.
Another big reason is that drinking alcohol makes social situations easier. My LA Therapy's website explains that "If you have a social anxiety disorder you may long for connection while at the same time feeling debilitated by social interactions."
If you suffer from social anxiety, it can be easier to strike up a conversation with somebody once loose off of a few drinks. It’s easier to fit in, and sometimes easier than explaining to every single person you see at the party why it is you’re drinking water.
Is alcohol simply a band-aid, an unhealthy coping skill masquerading as a Band-Aid to your problems?
Effects of Alcohol
There are a plethora of both short term and long term effects of consuming alcohol. Drinking in the short term can cause slurred speech, drowsiness, distorted vision and hearing, impaired motor skills, anemia (loss of red blood cells) and sometimes blackouts. These effects, although daunting, are often what is sought after during a night of college drinking. The alcohol causes us to loosen up (impaired judgment and motor skills) and feel good. This allows us to have more fun, talk to people uninhibitedly, and let ourselves have a better time.
Long-term health consequences of consistent alcohol abuse are a bit more dangerous. The worst thing that can happen is death or serious injury. Alcohol can severely inhibit your ability to drive and if you choose to drink and drive, there’s always the chance you doze off and hit someone, sending you to jail for manslaughter. Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, or drowning are associated with continuous use of alcohol, as are intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, or domestic violence. More effects of long-term alcoholism include alcohol poisoning, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, nerve damage, sexual problems, and ulcers. Another obvious one is problems with family and relationships.
While there are lots of negative effects of consuming alcohol, there ARE positive ones too!
First of all, let’s consider what moderate consumption means. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men. Positive effects include a lowering of the user’s risk of cardiovascular disease, lengthening of the user’s life, libido improvement, and a decreased chance of developing dementia and diabetes. There are studies that have shown all of these are true, which leads me to state that a glass of wine with dinner on occasion should be something to indulge in.
Alcohol vs. Other Drugs
Alcohol is a drug that’s use has been rampant for a long time. It’s legal to get ahold of at young ages; it’s in advertisements, movies, TV shows, and your house. It’s everywhere. It’s good to be wary of, especially if you’re entering college or in high school, the statistics and facts surrounding underage drinking.
I hope after you read this, you think twice about binge drinking and going out next time. Although alcohol can definitely be enjoyed in a smart and safe way, you’d be better off safe than sorry.