Alcohol Abuse & College Students
A lot of college students abuse alcohol which can be very dangerous. There are many reasons why young people abuse alcohol, including stress, depression, loneliness, peer pressure, experimentation, rebellion, self-appraisal, or difficult and emotional relationships. Turning to alcohol to alleviate problems can often lead to psychological or physical dependence. Relying on alcohol to cope with life's pressures can also lead to bad decisions, and even personal injury.
Generally, as a person gets older, he or she develops coping skills to deal with stress or traumatic events. Coping skills include methods such as building a support system of family members and trusted friends, being able to talk about one's problems and not bottle up negative emotions, being optimistic, achieving great self-control, gaining problem solving and planning techniques to help make positive decisions, participating in hobby activities to distract one's mind from negative subjects, physically exercise a lot to tone one's mind and body, or discover a pleasing activity such as listening to music and induce happy thoughts.
The antithesis of learning coping skills is to fall prey to addictive behaviors. Addictive behaviors are the repetition of negative acts regardless of consequences, with examples including alcohol abuse, drug abuse, obsessive acts, compulsive acts, over-eating, under-eating or unhealthy eating, not exercising, self-isolation or even partial confinement, self-centering, chronic depression, over-working, over-studying, unrelenting self-evaluation, belittling groups of people, or even violence in a relationship. Such behaviors can generally lead to future health problems, mental illness, and tremendous anger toward individuals, groups, or entities.
Addictive behaviors can be extremely dangerous. In this editor's memory alone, there are countless instances where young people were killed or injured due to alcohol: women falling out of dorm windows, men offing themselves, people skiing into trees, people dying of alcohol poisoning, people drowning in their own vomit, etc. And of course the major risk of driving under the influence or being a passenger in such situations. Literally, hundreds and hundreds of young people have been killed by drunk driving in Eastern Massachusetts in the past 30 years.
There are many other situations where alcohol can lead to terrible consequences such as violent fights, falling and hurting oneself, injuring or killing a friend in a car accident, getting a sexually transmitted disease, being raped, getting robbed, or getting arrested at a party or public event.
Lastly, some people may be genetically pre-disposed to alcoholism, or easily physically or psychologically addicted to alcohol. If family members are alcoholics, abstaining from alcohol and participating in a support group may be a good option. Some people are drawn to hard drugs after consuming alcohol, and they should consider abstaining or attending therapy sessions to overcome any addictive tendencies.
What should young people consider when first consuming alcohol?
- The legal drinking age is 21 of course.
- Abstain from alcohol until you are mature enough to drink.
- Consult with your parents, and try alcohol for the first time at home if they advise as such.
- Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is illegal, with major penalties. You could also still be driving impaired below .08. In some states, lower blood alcohol limits are set for drivers under the age of 21 (Florida's under 21 b.a.c. limit is .02 for instance, equal to about 1 alcoholic beverage consumed).
- Know your own alcohol limit and adhere to it. In the 1970s film Magnum Force, Clint Eastwood says near the end of the movie: "A man's got to know his limitations." If consuming two drinks makes you act stupid, then one drink is your limit. If it's three drinks, then never consume more than two, etc.
- Always remember the consequences of your actions when consuming alcohol. A trite expression to convey the point is: "If you stick your butt in the meat grinder, you're going to get hamburger." If one knows they are too drunk to drive and could get arrested or hurt someone, then one should find a way to sober up or sleep it off before operating a motor vehicle.
What should young people consider in social situations?
- Avoid large house parties. Many young people cannot handle alcohol, and negative events occur.
- Avoid large public events if security may be inadequate. In Boston, there was the Green Day Riot in 1994, and several instances long before that.
- When attending nightclubs, make sure you are aware of building exits, and set up a meeting place outside with a friend if something does happen. The 1942 Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire in Boston killed 492 people, and was the worst nightclub fire in US history. The more recent 2003 Station Nightclub fire in nearby Warwick RI, killed 100 people.
- Stay with your friends at a nightclub, and do not abandon them if they are drunk. Young women have been raped or killed after being left by their friends, with the infamous Swedish Nanny Murder in Boston still unsolved.
- Never drink and drive. Never be a passenger with someone impaired by alcohol. Remember the old clichés "Friends don't let friends drive drunk!," and the obsolete expression "Drive 55, we want you alive!" regarding safely operating a motor vehicle. Use a designated driver that doesn't drink at events. Use public transportation when possible.
- Know your alcohol limit. Use self-control and comply with your limit. Your weight, tolerance for alcohol, and amount of food consumed before drinking influences your blood alcohol content and mental impairment.
- Think about the consequences of your actions, especially when consuming alcohol.
- At Spring Break, if traveling, be extremely careful as a few local people often prey on vacation visitors, both financially and sexually. The Natalee Holloway disappearance in 2005 is a very tragic case.
- Alcohol is a depressant, and mood changes are common. If you are suffering from depression, you may experience temporary euphoria after consuming alcohol, but could become even more depressed when drunk.
Drink Responsibly !