Myth: Everyone in College drinks.
Fact: Everyone in college does not drink. In fact, there are a number of students who choose to remain substance free throughout their college career.
The first 6 weeks on campus is a critical time for new students. With a great deal of free time, many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, and the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaption to campus life. You should know that about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.
Drinking to excess can have significant effects on your health, academics, and social life.
Binge drinking or excessive drinking can sometimes lead to blackouts, hospitalization, and in extreme cases, death.
Male: 5 or more drinks in a 2 hour period
Female: 4 or more drinks in a 2 hour period
Alcohol affects every organ in the body. The brain, however, is severely impacted by alcohol use. The most vulnerable areas of the brain are those associated with memory, coordination, and judgment.
Short-term effects (usually lasting up to 72 hours after heavy use): Alcohol has several physiological and psychological effects, which will inhibit your performance as a student. Cognitive abilities are affected by even small amounts of alcohol (BACs > .03), and can persist for a substantial period of time after the acute effects of alcohol impairment disappear.
For example, alcohol impairs memory by inhibiting the transfer and consolidation of information in long-term memory — so alcohol reduces our ability to remember information that we learned prior to going out for drinks. Perhaps most importantly, your attention span is shorter for periods up to forty-eight hours after drinking.
Even in small doses, alcohol inhibits REM sleep. When REM sleep is suppressed we may feel tired when we wake up. In addition to cognitive impairments, consumption of alcohol and the resulting recovery period (i.e., hang-over) wastes time that might be better spent studying or having fun. Have you ever tried to study or even watch TV with a hangover?
Long-term Effects (one year of heavy use): Alcohol can result in the adulteration and even death of brain cells, and those cells that support brain functioning by providing energy and nutrients. Alcohol can cause damage to the connections between nerve cells and cause irreversible brain damage, including memory loss and personality changes.
There is little doubt that alcohol use has a damaging effect on academic performance. In fact, one national study showed that, at four-year institutions, college students with an "A" average consume 3.3 drinks per week, whereas students with a "D" or "F" average consume 9.0 drinks per week. The same study showed that sizable percentages of college students also report having done poorly on a test or project or having missed class because of their alcohol or other drug use in the previous twelve months. (1).
Another national study conducted at four-year colleges and universities by Henry Wechsler of the Harvard School of Public Health found that, since the beginning of the school year, nearly one-third of high-risk drinkers had missed class and 21 percent had fallen behind in their school work because of their drinking. Among frequent high-risk drinkers-- students who had engaged in high-risk drinking three or more times in the previous two weeks-- over 60 percent had missed class and 46 percent had fallen behind in school because of their drinking (2).
It is not just those who use alcohol and other drugs who are affected by that use. The Harvard study found that, on campuses where more than half the students were classified as binge drinkers, 68 percent of non-binge drinkers reported that, since the beginning of the academic year, their studying or sleep had been interrupted because of other students' use of alcohol.(7)
The recently published data compiled below illustrate that each year the consequences of college drinking are more significant, more destructive, and more costly than many Americans realize. It is also important to remember that these consequences may affect you whether or not you drink.
Substance Abuse Prevention Services - Office of Student Life, 302 Memorial Union, 874-5073
Counseling Center, 217 Roosevelt Hall, 874-2288
Health Services, Potter Building, 6 Butterfield Rd., 874-2246
Meadows Edge Recovery Center 401-294-6170
Driver Re-Training at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles 401-462-0826
Rhode Island Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependence
24-Hour Hotline 1-800-622-7422
Alcoholics Anonymous 1-800-439-8860
Narcotics Anonymous 401-461-1110
Al-anon & Alateen 401-781-0044