Unformatted text preview: Harmful Drug or Beneficial Substance? By: Jeremy LaMell Alcohol: The Truth About Alcohol Excessive consumption of alcohol is one of the most serious problems in today's society. The truth is that alcohol is a drug, and many people can't control themselves when it comes to drinking. How It Works When alcohol is consumed, it's quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. As you probably know, the measurement of the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is called the BloodAlcohol Content, or BAC. Measuring the BAC is the only way to tell exactly how intoxicated a person is at a given time. A person's BAC depends not only on the amount of alcohol consumed, but also on gender, size, metabolism, and the amount of food in their stomach. BAC is the measurement that lawenforcement agencies use to determine whether a person is able to do things such as drive a car. The legal limit for BAC while operating a vehicle in the state of California is .08 Alcoholism in the U.S. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) claims that alcoholism is a disease. Like many other diseases, it can be inherited. They also state that although it can be treated, alcoholism can never be cured. People who start drinking at an early age are much more likely to develop alcohol problems than someone who starts at a later age. Craving a strong urge to drink Loss of control not being able to stop once drinking has begun Physical Dependence withdrawal after stopping drinking Tolerance the need to drink greater amounts in order to get drunk 17.6 million people about 1 in 12 adults in the U.S. abuse alcohol Alcohol Dependence includes 4 symptoms: Alcoholism is prolific in the U.S. Effects of Excessive Drinking ShortTerm Effects When alcohol is in the bloodstream it: Causes slower activity in the brain It also impairs the use of the body's nervous system, causing: Diminished motor skills Slower reaction time Lack of visual perception Drinking not only impairs us physically, but it also affects our ability to make wise decisions. Hangover which is the poisoning by alcohol and the body's reaction to it, withdrawal from the alcohol, and dehydration It also causes a decrease in stamina, because alcohol weakens the heart's pumping force. Combining alcohol with other drugs increases the effects of those drugs, making them much more dangerous. There are also many longterm affects of alcohol abuse, including: Liver Disease Damage to the brain and heart Increased risk of cancer Inflammation of the pancreas Loss of Appetite Vitamin deficiencies Sexual impotence Excessive drinking causes increased aggression, and is the #1 contributing factor to violence in our society. Alcohol (along with tobacco) kills over 50 times more people each year than illegal drugs. Alcohol is the drug associated with somewhere between 7090% of sexual assault cases in the U.S. There was a recent survey taken by 750 girls between the ages of 19 and 21: Alcohol abuse can also have negative effects on society: Almost 90% cite drinking as a major factor leading to sex. Alcohol Abuse Among Youths More American youths drink alcohol than smoke tobacco or marijuana. Drinkers under the age of 21 account for between 1220% of the U.S. alcohol market. A late 1990's study linked youth alcohol use to violent crimes that led to damages of nearly $36 million, vehicle crashes costing more than $18 million, treatment adding up to about $2.5 million, as well as other expenses. Between 1993 and 2001, 1820 year olds showed the largest increase in bingedrinking episodes(5 or more consecutive drinks). However Drinking Can Have Positive Affects, When Done In Moderation The term moderate drinker refers to someone who, on average, consumes one 5oz glass of wine, one 12oz beer, or 1.5oz of liquor per day. Those who drink in moderation can see many health benefits: Studies have confirmed that moderate drinking reduces the risk of Coronary Heart Disease, which is the leading cause of death in many western countries. Longer lifespan than abstainers or abusers Fewer heart attacks and strokes Reduced risk of vascular disease Reduced stress Increased bloodflow (reduced blood pressure) Improved good cholesterol Beneficial effects on hormones College Students and Alcohol Drinking is the #1 health problem on college campuses across the country. College students are at a higher risk for alcohol related problems because so many binge drink, drink recklessly, and they are targeted by advertising. Each year college students spend about $4.2 billion for 430 million gallons of alcoholic beverages. The amount of drinks a student consumes per week is directly related to: Overall GPA, class attendance, and test grades Reasons For Excessive Drinking By Students College students face 4 different types of social pressures that my cause them to abuse alcohol. 1. Conformity new or younger students often change their attitudes and behaviors to fit social norms. This leads students to be pressured into drinking excessive amounts. People have a desire to fit in and be liked by their peers, so many binge drink simply to win the approval and acceptance of other students. 2. Compliance people try to change the behaviors of others. Many comply with excessive drinking because their friends reinforce the behavior. This can be a problem, especially in fraternities, sororities, and athletic teams. Social Pressures Cont'd 3. Obedience people often obey orders given by authority figures, such as upperclassman. This is often the case when it comes to hazing and initiation. These traditions are common among fraternities and athletic teams, and they almost always involve extremely excessive amounts of alcohol consumption. New members often try to impress the others with their drinking ability, which in certain cases can prove to be very dangerous. 4. Social Diversity in the past it was thought that male students were more likely to be pressured into drinking, but recent studies show that men and women are equally susceptible to being pressured. They face similar social pressures and have similar conformity results. Controlling The Pressures There are 4 main laws used to control the amount of drinking by college students. 1. Strict laws are in place which hold people responsible for serving minors or buying alcohol for them. The party supplying the minors with alcohol is held liable if anything happens. Serving alcohol to anyone under 21 or buying it for them can be punished with fines or even jail time. 2. Universities are held liable for not intervening with excessive drinking whether it's done on campus or by a schoolsponsored group or club. Each university has a responsibility to intervene in order to subdue alcohol consumption problems. 3. Any establishment that serves or sells alcohol is responsible for making sure that there isn't excessive drunkenness or underage drinking in their bar. Bars are held accountable if any of this happens, and they can face harsh fines, loss of their liquor license, and other penalties. 4. Universities are also responsible for making sure that fraternities are under control. Fraternities are known for excessive partying, and sometimes it's necessary for the school to intervene. Sometime in the future, alcohol abuse may threaten the survival of the Greek system, which is one reason that the school needs to keep the parties in frat and sorority houses under control Some students are opposed to these rules, because they feel that it drinking is part of the college experience. Negative Effects of Alcohol Abuse In College A recent Harvard study reported that 42% of college students had at least 1 excessive drinking episode in the twoweek period prior to the survey. 21% of those students had 3 or more in that same time period. With alcohol abuse so prevalent among college students, there are a number of negative effects that can be seen. According a study at 113 college campuses, they concluded that alcohol abuse was responsible for: 64% of campus incidents involving violent behavior 42% of physical injuries on campus 2/3 of all property damage 40% of all emotional and academic difficulties In addition many women on have been victims of sexual aggression while in college. It is estimated that approximately 68% of male assailants had been under the influence when committing these crimes. The Department of Education reports that since 1996, 84 college students have died because of alcohol. They also suggest that this is a low estimate. Excessive drinking can also have negative effects on academic performance. It is thought that about 20% of college students that binge drink fall seriously behind in their studies. 30% of them also miss class regularly. Over the years, studies have repeatedly shown that the amount of alcoholics drinks a student consumes has a direct affect on their GPA, test scores, and attendance. University Responsibilities Because of the ridiculous amount of problems caused by alcohol on college campuses, every university is legally required to implement some sort of drug prevention program for their students. These alcohol awareness programs usually include educational classes, counseling, and therapy. For example here at LMU, if someone has problems with getting written up for drinking on campus, they are required to take that alcohol awareness class. Prohibition vs. Moderation In order to control the situation, a university has two options. They can attempt to ban alcohol and try to get students not to drink at all, or they can focus on educating students and enforcing policies that focus on alcohol moderation. Prohibition, which would be the attempt to ban alcohol from campus and from students, would obviously be beneficial to society. However this would be nearly impossible to do. There are many `dry' campuses around the country, but students will always try to find a way to get it. If a university focuses on the moderation of alcohol, it would not be able to alleviate all the problems. This goal, however, is much more realistic. Students Can Benefit From Moderate Drinking As I've discussed, alcohol abuse among college students has its share of negative impacts. Drinking, however, is not always bad for students to partake in. There are actually numerous benefits that can result from drinking, as long as it's done in moderation. Along with the health and social benefits I've already talked about, consuming alcohol moderately can have a positive impact on students. Moderate drinking has been shown to be a factor in scholastic success and retention rates of students. It can not only help students succeed academically, but it can also have behavioral advantages and cause a decrease in violence. One reason for this is that someone who drinks moderately is less likely to suffer from hypertension and stress, which would be beneficial because it's a lot easier to get work done if you're not stressed out about it. Wrapping It Up After discussing the effects of drinking on students as well as on society, it is easy to see that there are plenty of reasons both for and against it. Going back to the point that universities have a responsibility to control alcohol consumption among college students, there is no clear cut solution. Both prohibition and moderation have their upsides and downsides. Whether or not the affects of alcohol are positive or negative depends on the amount of consumption as well as personal opinion. ...
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- Spring '08