Alcohol is the intoxicating component found in beer, wine, spirits, liquor and others. Alcohol is not entirely harmful on its own; the problem comes in when the user misuses or abuses it. Alcohol abuse happens when a person’s pattern of consumption results in harmful consequences mentally, physically and socially and might eventually lead to dependence. This paper looks at the effects of alcohol, specifically binge drinking.
Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use. It is defined as drinking that results to a 0.08 grams alcohol percent or above of blood alcohol concentration (Centre for Disease Control, 2016). This scenario happens when there is consumption of 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women in approximately 2 hours (Centre for Disease Control, 2016). In layman terms it is simply drinking to get really drunk. It is more common among young adults or the youth population (18-34) years and the most common partakers of binge drinking are college students (Centre for Disease Control, 2016). The statistics on binge drinking are alarming with half out 4 in 5 who consume alcohol admitting to heavy alcohol consumption in a single setting. It is so serious to the extent that it has been categorized as a public health problem (Saltz & DeJong, 2002).
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College comes with a lot of freedom and close to zero monitoring by parents or guardians. To add to these, there are random clichés that people throw around but carry a lot of weight in reality like YOLO (You Only Live Once), then there is the desire to fit in or to seem cool and go with the crowd. So in the spirit of freedom, making it to college, YOLO and having a good time, the youth normally decide it would not hurt to have a bottle of beer.
Ethanol, a chemical synonym for alcohol is a neurotoxin. Neurotoxins cause harmful damage to the nervous system. The human body possesses the ability to convert ethanol to a harmless substance but this process is not instantaneous. Binge drinking means there is alcohol uptake in the body at a faster rate than what the body can normally handle. Incredible complex series of chemical reactions in the brain’s neurons connect processes like speech, vision, coordination, thought, and behavior. Ethanol tends to modify these reactions by suppressing or enhancing the role of certain neurotransmitters. The stream of information in the brain is thus altered, preventing the brain from functioning normally. This explains why excessive intake of alcohol results in slurred speech, blurred vision, staggering, and weakened behavioral restraints and inhibitions (Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee, 2000). Soon enough I started exhibiting these symptoms of intoxication. The parties did not come to a halt, more parties meant more opportunities for free beer. One beer would lead to another in one single setting and it would take me quite a while to get to my room at the end of the night or the start of dawn and it would come to my attention that I might have fallen or hit myself because of unexplained injuries.
Excessive consumption of alcohol on a single setting can lead to a compromised or weakened immune system. The production of cytokines in the body is dragged meaning that the ability of the body to defend itself against infections by giving rise to inflammations is lowered, thus making you susceptible to bacterial infections (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2016). This explained my constant bouts of strep throat. It would come and go more times than I could count. I really hated the difficulty in swallowing that would came with it. I had a full cabinet of different types of anti-bacterial medications. I tried to consume a lot of vegetables and fruits but I later realized that it was worthless since I was reversing the benefits by indulging in alcohol.
One such effect is liver damage. Alcohol causes fat to accumulate in the liver because it hinders its breakdown. This sequence leads to hepatitis or chronic inflammation of the liver. A compromised immunity also makes the body susceptible to hepatitis B and C. Continuous inflammation leads to a scary and lumpy liver. Scarring hinders normal blood flow to the liver, resulting in liver failure and death (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2016). There are more effects like cancer, heart damage and damage to the pancreas which are associated with intake of alcohol.
The need for social approval also drives binge drinking. College students often want to stand out because most of the time, in their own words, they are not “cool”. A research showed that 75 percent of freshmen reported to indulging on at least one risky behavior which mostly included alcohol abuse during their initial semester so as to fit in. Once you are drinking it is easier to be socially acceptable because you seem fun and exciting (University of Minnesota, 2016).
As mentioned before college comes with a lot of freedom. This freedom provides avenues for engaging in risky behavior like taking alcohol and heightened sexual activity. Intoxication makes it easier for some people to have sexual intercourse. This was shown by a study that indicated that 53 percent of college students drink because it facilitates sexual opportunities (University of Minnesota, 2016). Furthermore, legal availability of alcohol assures most college students access to alcohol. Most college students have finally got to the legal age of drinking and can now drink openly. They view this as a positive and thus are encouraged to drink and they continuously do so.
Another danger that binge drinking exposes people to is the genetic risk factor. A scientific study determined a gene which puts people at risk of becoming alcoholics. Some college students come from families which have a history of alcoholism, and are thus predisposed to the vice of alcoholism. By engaging in binge drinking during their formative years, they activate this gene and could possibly pass it to their posterity. Additionally, their family backgrounds equally contribute to this. Children do not escape the effects of their parent’s alcoholism. While some might grow up to loathe the vice, others might learn from their parents and once they are in college, become more notorious drinkers.
A consideration to make on the effects of drinking includes the affordability of alcohol. Some parents tend to give their college children a lot of allowances. This means that they will have a lot of disposable income at the end of the day. If they do not find something better to spend on this money, most of it ends up going to purchase of alcohol. In addition lower alcohol pricing encourages purchase as well (Saltz & DeJong, 2002). There are a lot of factors which lead to usage of alcohol like coping with stress, need for fun activities, high concentration of bars and retail outlets near campus. Rarely do these factors act independently; it is usually a combination of two or more predominant factors.
Indeed, the effects that flow out of binge drinking include largescale irresponsibility among others including the risk that the behavior could be passed on to one’s children. As such, tough consideration of the consequences of the alcohol intake should be considered before one engages in such behaviors.
Centre for Disease Control. (2016, July 15). Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking . Retrieved from Centre for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm .
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2016, July 15). Alcohol's Effects on the Body. Retrieved from National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body .
Saltz, R., & DeJong, R. (2002, April). Reducing Alcohol Problems on Campus: A Guide to Planning and Evaluation . Retrieved from College drinking- changing the culture: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/NIAAACollegeMaterials/planEvalHandbook.aspx .
University of Minnesota. (2016, July 15). Why Students Drink . Retrieved from University of Minnesota Web site: http://www.cehd.umn.edu/fsos/projects/alcohol/whydrink.asp .
Wechsler, H., Lee, J. E., Kuo, M., & Lee, H. (2000, October 8). College binge drinking in the 1990s: A continuing problem results of the Harvard School of Public Health 1999 College Alcohol Study. Journal of American College Health, 48(5) , 199-210.