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Where's the Party At? College Drinking Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Party! Alcohol, guys, girls, music, and some plain old fun. When most people enter college, they assume that their weekends and maybe even weekdays, will be filled with lots of partying. These late nights will most likely include drinking alcoholic beverages such as beer, hard liquor, and wine.

Many seniors in high school can't wait for their first official college party, but can they handle it? I had an epiphany after winter break when I found out that one of my close friends had been kicked out of school because of her bad grades. I thought to myself, how could this have happened?

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! My friend (we'll call her Katie) had been a pretty good student and occasionally drank on the weekends. It soon occurred to me that my own drinking habits had influenced her to the point that she let her school work and swim team responsibilities go.

Could drinking alcohol really result in ruining one's life?
Ian Skalecky, 20, from Carteret, NJ, remarks, "I feel that there are a lot of college students who drink excessively, possibly due to peer pressure."

Many down drinks for acceptance, he explains. "[Peer pressure can] drive young, impressionable teens to act irresponsibly and do things that have harmful effects on them, both mentally and physically."

The more I thought about it, I realized that Ian was onto something. Such examples of harm were evidenced in my friends and their drinking habits. Most who drank heavily struggled with their academics. Katie's struggle began when she started missing classes because she was either hung over or still intoxicated from the night before.

"I would just drink all night 'til the late morning hours," Katie admits. "I drank everything from beer to shots of hard liquor to wine. The mornings would be the worst part of the day. I rarely went to class or practice."

Because of her drinking problem, Katie was kicked off her team, dismissed from school, and now works a full-time job at home, away from her friends, for a little over minimum wage.

"Right now I have a job and am attending AA meetings. Hopefully, by next semester, I will be able to return to school and continue with my education."

But Katie's future is unclear and independence has been taken away. What 21-year-old wants to live with her parents instead of having fun in college?

"If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have put my academics and friends before alcohol. I hate to say it, but alcohol ruined my college career," states Katie.

Laura C. Ancona, M.D., director of Mental Health Services at Wagner College (Staten Island, NY), says, "The only way to change [binge drinking] behavior is to change perception."

Ancona believes that many students drink because they perceive that everyone else is drinking -- and that it's the cool thing to do.

Alcohol and Women
Alcohol affects women differently than men. Women are more sensitive to alcohol, may become addicted sooner, may develop alcohol-related problems more quickly, and many die younger than men with similar drinking problems. (Source: www.glness.com/ndhs)

Body Size: Since on the average, women are smaller than men, equivalent doses of alcohol produce higher levels of concentration in women's bodies.

Body Composition: The average female carries more body fat than the average male, and body fat contains little water. Consequently, most women have less body water to dilute the alcohol, leaving a higher concentration of alcohol in women's bodies.

Alcohol Dehydrogenase: This is a metabolizing enzyme that helps the body get alcohol out of its system. Women have less of this enzyme than men do, so more of what women drink enters the bloodstream as pure alcohol. In other words, women can expect substantially more alcohol-caused impairment than men at equivalent doses.

Ancona also stresses that there are many factors such as depression, anxiety, and peer pressure that can cause students to drink. "The one thing that should be stressed across college campuses is prevention and safety," she continues.

That's why each spring, Wagner College holds alcohol screening tests. "Our goal is to try to teach students the risk factors in drinking and help them understand what they are doing to their bodies and how their behavior can affect others."

Health Problems Associated with Drinking: AIDS, alcoholism, alcohol poisoning, cancer, depression, suicide, heart disease, liver disease, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)(Source: www.glness.com/ndhs)

>> For More Information:
Drinking: A Student's Guide: www.glness.com/ndhs
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: www.niaaa.nih.gov.

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