Alcohol and Health
Alcohol is the number-one drug problem in this country and on campus. Abstaining from using alcohol is the only way to completely protect oneself from its risks and negative effects. Students should be aware of the potential negative physical, mental and legal consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, especially if drinking underage.
Drinking alcohol has acute effects on the body. It impairs speech, coordination, vision, and judgment, and often leads to dangerous risk-taking behavior. Nearly half of all accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides are alcohol related. The misuse of alcohol is often involved in violent behavior, non-stranger rape, unintended pregnancy, and exposure to sexually transmitted infections.
College students in particular should be aware of alcohol’s affect on the frontal lobe and cognitive process. Alcohol decreases a person’s capacity for reasoning and judgment. With a decrease in reasoning and judgment comes decreased feelings of awkwardness and a feeling of being more social. In addition, people may feel more at ease to approach new people, dance, or try new things.
However, this decrease in reasoning and judgment is also associated with an increase in doing and saying things we will later regret, embarrassment, engaging in risky sexual behavior (not using a condom or multiple partners), and a potential increased risk for sexual assault. In addition, we may not be able to accurately judge how drunk we are and may end up over-consuming, putting ourselves at increased risk for problems as seemingly mundane as puking and/or hangovers to more severe issues like blacking out, passing out, or even death due to alcohol poisoning.
Responsible alcohol use
Responsible alcohol use can include choosing not to drink alcohol (especially if you are under the age of 21) or choosing to consume a moderate amount of alcohol based on your size and biology.
If you do choose to drink alcohol, there are four factors that determine how alcohol affects you. Alcohol can affect people very differently, even if they’ve consumed the same number of drinks. Understanding how these factors relate and affect you can help you and your friends stay safe:
a) Weight: Given similar amounts of alcohol consumed, smaller people get more intoxicated than bigger people. Larger people have more water and more blood in their system and it takes larger quantities to produce the same effect than in smaller people.
b) Biology: Whether you naturally produce certain hormones or use hormone replacement therapy, size, estrogen, alcohol metabolism and water content all contribute to differences if how we process alcohol.
c) Quantity: Obviously, how much alcohol one drinks affects how they respond. Knowing what constitutes a standard drink is important when drinking responsibly.
d.) Time: How quickly one consumes alcohol also determines how drunk they can become. Times is also the only factor that affects sobriety.
Blood-alcohol content measures how much alcohol is in a person’s blood. It can be used as a rough gauge of how much alcohol might affect your behavior and judgment. You can estimate your blood-alcohol content using a BAC chart. The interactive BAC chart linked below allows you to adjust for gender and body weight. The BAC chart should NOT be used as a way to estimate driving ability and/or safety.