Binge drinking in university is increasing and is a serious health risk
Alcohol consumption is something that many young adults consider “the norm,” particularly when attending college or university. It is often regarded as a way of socializing, having fun or relieving stress after a busy week of intensive studying. However, it is important to be aware of how we overconsume alcohol and the dangers associated with binge drinking. Recently, a study was done in the U.S. assessing the over-consumption of alcohol amongst college and university students. Though the amount of regular drinking has remained relatively consistent over the years, the amount of binge drinking has increased dramatically. In fact, the CDC reports that 90 per cent of alcohol consumed by individuals under 21 in the U.S. is through binge drinking.
Though alcohol consumption can be safe when done occasionally in safe doses, overconsumption of alcohol can lead to many serious consequences and medical conditions later in life. Many individuals may not even realize that the amount they consume is excessive. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking typically as five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in a span of two hours. This results in a blood alcohol concentration equal or above 0.08 grams per cent.
It is also important to note that most people who binge drink are not alcohol-dependent, yet serious side effects may still arise. Binge drinking is often associated with health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, neurological damage, sexual dysfunction and alcohol poisoning. Not to mention health problems associated with impaired decision making and high risk behaviour, including accidental injuries, intentional injuries (self-harm or harming others), sexually transmitted infections, unintentional pregnancy and fetal alcohol syndrome. A study conducted by Harvard University found binge drinkers were three times more likely than regular drinkers to have unprotected sex, destroy property, become injured, get involved with the police, drive under the influence and have decreased academic performance.
Alcohol is a depressant drug, meaning that it slows the functioning of the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. Alcohol therefore disrupts communication in the brain, causing a decrease in cognitive abilities and coordination, as well as changes in mood and behaviour. This can have implications for mental health, as alcohol consumption can actually increase stress and anxiety, and worsen depression. Drinking heavily over an extended period of time can also have significant effects on memory, where it may become difficult to remember things that occurred even if you had not been drinking that day.
It is important to remember that alcohol is a drug which must be used with caution. Like other drugs, it can alter your personality, affect judgement, impact memory and can even be lethal. Excessive alcohol consumption can result in detrimental consequences to your life, and it must therefore be treated accordingly. The message here is not “don’t drink,” but rather be conscious of how much you consume and how it may physically and emotionally affect you down the road. We each have only one body, and we should do our best to treat it the care and respect it deserves.