Binge drinking

Partying, heavy drinking, and bad decisions have one thing in common; they can be easily associated with today’s college lifestyle.  Although these are often casually discussed, it is important to remember that they can have negative short and long-term effects on our bodies and minds.

Along with causing health problems, unhealthy drinking habits can take a toll on our family and social lives, leave us with long lasting consequences, and cause traumatic experiences.

Recent statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report that 80 percent of college students drink, and half of those informed surveyors that they had participated in binge drinking within the past two weeks.

As the statistics show, underage binge drinking is becoming a serious problem.

Binge drinking is defined as a repeated pattern of heavy drinking that results in an individual giving up their usual responsibilities and obligations to get intoxicated.

Heavy drinking varies depending on weight and gender, but is usually identified by the consumption of five or more drinks in a two-hour time period for men and four drinks in the same period for women.

Many college students have trouble keeping up with the amount of drinks they consume per night. This issue combined with peer pressure leads to over consumption of alcohol.

Knowing the definition of binge drinking is important, so that it is easier to identify when you’re drinking too heavily or only drinking socially.

If short-term effects like blurred vision and vomiting aren’t enough to scare you, then the long-term effects of binge drinking should help to make you more aware of what you are doing to your body.

Binge drinking is associated with brain damage, and studies show that brain damage can occur less than 24 hours after an adolescent’s last episode of drinking. The damage associated with binge drinking is more prominent through ages 13-24 because the brain is still developing.

Underage drinking habits are also associated with a higher risk of dementia and heart disease later in life, increased memory loss in adulthood, and impaired visual learning.

More immediate than the long-term effects on the body and mind are instant consequences. Heavy drinking can lead to unintended injuries like car crashes and burns, and is also a major contributor to sexual assaults and domestic violence.

The impaired judgment caused by drinking leads to poor decision making, such as forgetting to be safe during sexual encounters, which can lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Each year drinking affects thousands of college students negatively.

These NIAAA statistics show how detrimental heavy drinking can be.

  • Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related accidents.
  • Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.

These extreme consequences can be easily avoided if the right precautions are taken when you do decide to have a few drinks. Always keep track of the amount of drinks you have consumed.

Social drinking, or consuming 1 to 2 drinks on occasion, is not linked to the severe consequences associated with binge drinking. Know your limit, and be aware of the signs that you’ve had too much to drink.

Becoming louder than usual, losing your inhibitions, and exercising poor judgment are the first signs to look for.

Paying attention to your body can help you avoid heavy drinking. Make sure you have a friend with you when going out, and help each other keep track of alcohol consumption and behavioral changes.

Preventing binge drinking can be easier than it seems, and not consuming large amounts of alcohol can benefit us dramatically in the future.

References:

http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/alcohol-and-its-impact-on-the-brain/

http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/college-drinking

http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/short-term-long-term-effects.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/binge-drink-brain-alcohol-young-adults-teens_n_2593315.html

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