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Alcohol and College Life
Now that you're in college, you've got the freedom to make your own decisions about your life. That includes how much and how often you drink. But before you start partying, get wise to a few facts you might not know. Like that you can die from drinking too much. Or that a certain blood alcohol level can put you in a coma. The responsible use of alcohol involves understanding the effects of alcohol physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. Learning to recognize potential warning signs of alcohol abuse is also an important part of responsible drinking.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, that is, a drug that slows down the nervous system. As you drink, alcohol enters your bloodstream and affects your brain, where it alters your response time, your motor responses, reflexes, and balance, your muscle control, your judgment and ability to delay or inhibit your words and actions, and your emotions. Although alcohol use in moderation is considered socially acceptable in many parts of our culture today, excessive use and/or abuse of alcohol is associated with significant problems, for the individual and for society.
Physical Effects: loss of muscle control, impaired reflexes, vomiting, and unconsciousness. Because alcohol goes directly into the bloodstream, overuse of alcohol can effect almost every system in the body. Long term use can cause cancer, brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver, weight gain, and birth defects if drinking while pregnant. Excessive drinking can also cause serious accidents, injuries, and death. For example, more than one out of every three motor vehicle fatalities involves alcohol and one out of every four drownings are alcohol-related.
Psychological Effects: alcohol can affect your school work and family and social relationships. Studies have shown that students who drink alcohol to excess end up with poorer school grades and take longer time to complete their degrees. Because alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, risky and violent behavior can result. For example, students impaired by alcohol often engage in vandalism and physical fights. Friendships and romantic relationships can also be jeopardized. Alcohol can lead people to say or do things they might regret, like making a bad decision about having sex with someone. Alcohol abuse can also lead to family conflicts and broken households.
1. Myth: Alcohol improves my sexual performance.
2. Myth: I can drink and still be in control.
3. Myth: Drinking isn't all that dangerous.
4. Myth: I can sober up quickly if I have to.
5. Myth: It's ok for me to drink to keep up with my boyfriend.
6. Myth: There is no point in postponing drinking until I'm over 21.
7. Myth: I can manage to drive well enough after a few drinks.
8. Myth: I'd be better off if I learn to "hold my liquor."
9. Myth: I have to drink to fit in.
10. Myth: Beer doesn't have as much alcohol as hard liquor.
Alcohol use, like most human behaviors, exists on a continuum from Non-Use to Addiction. The potential negative consequences of alcohol use also exist on a continuum with the most negative consequences occurring as you move toward dependence. Be aware the family history of alcohol or substance abuse places you at a much higher risk for developing problems yourself.
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Frequent and/or Heavy Use
As alcohol use increases toward the frequent heavy use range of the continuum, problems managing one's life become unavoidable--alcohol becomes more important than our responsibilities, our activities, our friends (unless they're "drinking buddies"), and our families. Problems toward the left side of the continuum are much less frequent and much more manageable. By the way, frequent heavy use is defined as five or more drinks at least three times a week; addiction may occur with very heavy use (8-10 or more, drinks per drinking occasion) only once or twice a week (the binge drinker). If you fear that you are creeping too far to the right on the continuum, or one of your friends is, seek help or talk to your friend about what you see happening. Consulting with a counselor in either case is a real good idea; some valuable information and support become available once you take that step. And if you vehemently deny, or your friend denies, that substance use is a problem, that often indicates that it is a problem. To get one's life back under control requires using less (or not at all); if you can't do it on your own, seek help.
More Warning Signs to Watch For:
If you are concerned about your own or a friend's drinking behavior, please do not hesitate to call some of the following resources:
Find a Treatment Center in Your Community (Nationwide)
Al-Anon and Alateen Information (408) 379-1051
**PLEASE NOTE: Santa Clara University does not endorse or collaborate with any of the above programs.Contact the SCU Wellness Center for more information.(408) 554-4409