The Perils of Binge Drinking
After a long week, Friday night at the bar sounds like a much needed reprieve. You meet up with your friends, take a few shots, throw a couple back, and almost instantly you’ve forgotten how stressed you were just a mere few hours ago. Saturday rolls around and you’re feeling pretty exhausted from the night before. Despite listening to your body, you go for round two later that evening. On Sunday, you spend most of the day nursing your hangover and unable swing yourself out of a slump. Does this sound like your typical weekend?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the pattern of drinking alcohol in this capacity means you’re a binge drinker. In fact, within a two-hour time frame, men that throw back five or more drinks and women that consume four or more drinks are considered binge drinkers. The CDC states that 1 in 13 U.S. adults (about 38 million) binge drink on an average of four times per month. And since these hardcore drinkers fall within the age of 18-34, that means most of the people in your social group are susceptible to binging.
Reasons for Drinking
While there are a variety of reasons for being intoxicated, these are the most prevalent reasons in the young adult crowd.
- To disassociate from reality. Life is tough. Trying to balance coursework and a workload can take its toll. The stress of reality can be harsh to face, so why confront them when you can run away from them. Many people drink to avoid their problems and escape the escalating stress.
- To get drunk. Alcohol loosens you up and your inhibitions tend to disappear. That shy disposition you once had just miraculously dissipates. You seem to have more fun, enjoy your surroundings more, and allow yourself to be a free spirit. All your friends are drunk, so why shouldn’t you be?
- To fit in with peers. You’d stick out like a sore thumb at a party if you didn’t have a drink in your hand. Your friends are heavy drinkers and there seems to be no harm in it. Besides, they’d never invite you out if you weren’t down with the crowd.
- It’s the culture on campus. You know that frat house. Its door is always open, they play great party music, and it’s the place to be seen. You’ve made so many friends at their wild parties. In fact, you’ve mastered all the drinking games and you’re pretty stable with your keg stands.
Social, Academic, and Physical Effects of Drinking
Although going on a bender (2 or more days of sustained heavy drinking) may seem harmless, there are some noticeable changes in a person’s social and academic behaviors when alcohol takes over one’s life.
- Decrease in productivity. You spent all weekend drinking that you can’t even fathom going into work or sitting class. In addition, you’ve neglected to write a paper and study for an exam. You begin to fall behind in your coursework and your grades begin to drop.
- The feeling of isolation. The stressors of work and school take its toll. You arrive home exhausted and the first thing on your mind is relieving some stress. Instead of working out or going to your study group, you crack open a cold one. This becomes the weekday trend, you’re drinking on a daily basis and you’re doing it alone. Your friends begin to notice that you’re no longer there.
- You’re not your usual self. You can’t remember how that party ended or how you got into bed. You start to engage in risky sexual behavior, and you’re not protecting yourself. That little argument you thought you had with a significant other turned out to be much bigger when you noticed a bruise on your arm and a broken phone. Your friends were so worried about your state of being that they took you to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning.
- You’ve got a record. It seemed so harmless. You swear you could see straight. But the officer that pulled you over noticed you were swerving. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime and is highly dangerous.
- Run-ins with the police. The local beat cop knows you by name because they’ve picked you up for public intoxication. You were upset that a friend wouldn’t allow you to drive home so you became physically violent. All of these situations have lead you to be well known by campus police.
- The world knows about your weekend. All those drunk pictures you took on your phone were posted to your favorite social media sites. The next thing you know, your friends are upset that their embarrassing and incriminating photos are public property.
- You’re a walking zombie. All that drinking has zapped away your energy sources. Your body is craving something hydrating and nutritious. You have difficulty sleeping at night because your body is trying to adjust back to its normal levels of functioning. Your nervous system is rocked, your liver is working in overdrive, and your blood pressure is sky high.
- The scale doesn’t lie. It’s no surprise. The amount of alcoholic drinks you consume contain calories, and they are far from empty ones. The pounds you’ve packed on have a direct correlation to your drinking and your body is working on recovering your depleted energy sources. Working out isn’t as effective because your body is working off all those carbs you consumed.
Time to Stop
Slow down and self-regulate. If you adhere to one drink per hour, and consume water and food in between drinks, you’ll ward off any unpleasant reactions to drinking.
Don’t drink to get drunk. You think you’ve got to catch up when you hit the bar, but in reality you’ve got bigger fish to fry. You know the consequences, so avoid the negative reactions by taking control of yourself.
Change your environment. You don’t always need to go to the bar with your buddies. Try out a healthier activity – play a game of basketball, join a book club, go to the movies. Just don’t put yourself in an uncomfortable and compromising situation.
Be proactive. Encourage your school to sponsor activities on the weekends that promote healthy interactions (dances and games). Begin a school wide campaign to remove drinking paraphernalia from campus. Become aware of hazing rituals and the frats that use them. Write a letter to the newspaper editor showing your interest in changing the way your school views drinking on campus.
NIAAA – Definition of Binge Drinking
Psychology Today – Can We Stop Bing Drinking on College Campuses
Dartmouth Learning Collaborative – National College Health Improvement Project
CDC – Binge Drinking
NIAAA – Alcohol Alert
NIAAA – Calorie Calculator