Drinking during college is very common. Many students have already had some experience with drinking prior to college. However, some aspects of college, including minimal parental guidance, unstructured time, widespread availability of alcohol, and inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, can intensify drinking. Also, college students have a higher incidence of binge-drinking and driving drunk as compared to their non-college peers.
But how do we know when it’s too much?
Alcohol if taken in excessive quantities can have negative outcomes and to determine if you are at risk of alcohol abuse, answer these questions below?
-Have you gotten in trouble due to your drinking with the law? School performance or with your friends and family?
-Have you lost control of your drinking? Do you tell yourself that you had way more drinks than you had intended to?
-Do you feel uncomfortable or sick if you haven’t had a drink? Do you feel you have to increase the amount you drink to get that “buzz”?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, please contact your local healthcare provider as you may be at risk of alcohol abuse.
What if I do drink too much? What are the complications?
The most common impact is on your liver. You can develop a disease called cirrhosis which can lead to bleeding, abdominal swelling, confusion, yellowing of your skin or jaundice, and becoming easily prone to abdominal infections. Excessive alcohol can also lead to cancer, heart disease, and brain damage. People who drink excessively are also more prone to alcohol related injury including motor vehicle accidents, killing themselves, drowning, and other serious injuries including assault.
Approximately 1,825 college students between the age of 18-24 die from alcohol related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle accidents.
What is alcohol use disorder?
Alcohol use disorder is a medical term for alcoholism or alcohol addiction. People with alcohol use disorder have two or more of the below problems. Also, the more of these symptoms they have, the more severe the disorder is.
-They want to cut back on the alcohol, but they can’t
-They end up drinking more than they meant to or for a longer period than they planned to
-They keep drinking despite it causing issues in a relationship/friendship
-They keep drinking in dangerous situations, such as while driving
-They start reducing time spent on other important activities for work or pleasure
-They have cravings for alcohol or a strong urge to drink
-They spend a lot of time and effort trying to obtain alcohol, or recovering from being drunk
-They need to drink more and more than prior to get drunk or the “buzz.” This is referred to as “tolerance.”
-They often forget to do things that are expected of them including going to work, maintaining their home/cleaning, or attending important family events.
-They have “withdrawal symptoms” when they stop alcohol after having used it for a long period of time. The withdrawal symptoms can be any of the below:
-Nausea or vomiting
-Pain, body aches/muscle aches, headache
-Trembling/shaking/tremors, seizures (this can be life threatening)
-Sweating or a racing heart (palpitations)
-Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that really aren’t there, also known as hallucinations
-Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
What treatments can help?
See your local health provider if you think you may be at risk of alcohol use disorder. Those who have been drinking continuously for a longer period should never try to quit on their own. This can lead to serious health conditions.
There are also local support groups known as “Alcoholics Anonymous” (also known as AA).
Hingson, R.W.; Zha, W.; and Weitzman, E.R. Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18–24, 1998–2005. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (Suppl. 16):12–20, 2009. PMID: 19538908 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701090/
Hingson R, Heeren T, Winter M. et al. Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18–24: changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Review of Public Health 26: 259–279, 2005. PMID: 15760289 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15760289