Risky Business: When Drinking Goes Too Far

Parties are one of the most famous college stereotypes – movies like ’21 and Over’, ‘Animal House’, and ‘Old School’ have left an image in our minds of drunken students, getting into all sorts of trouble. However, it’s this sort of trouble that, while sometimes portrayed as humorous on-screen, may end badly in real life. Deaths from drunk driving are all too common, as is alcohol poisoning. In a world where the rules are suddenly removed, and almost all supervision seems to vanish, especially at night. This also makes it harder to gauge when too much alcohol is too much.

Drinking underage is risky enough. The brain’s frontal lobe – the part that controls decision making – is not fully formed until 21 years old, and underage drinking can slow or damage its development. It is because of this that laws have been established that restrict drinking to the age of 21, so that the brain’s development is allowed to work in its normal patterns.

According to patients.aan.com, “The problem for teens is that white matter doesn’t reach its full density in the prefrontal cortex—the area responsible for judgment, decision-making, and impulse control—until age 25 or 30. And that lack of white matter is one reason teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.”

However, even drinking at 21 and above can be risky. There’s no set amount on how much is too much, what might leave one person mildly intoxicated could leave another too drunk to stand.

According to safety officer Jim McColgan, he and the others who share his job “aren’t about getting people caught or lying in wait for them to come in drunk,” but they instead focus on making sure that people are safe. They sit in the lobbies of buildings until five in the morning, their eyes peeled for anyone who might be putting themselves at risk. When drunk, it’s possible that people may pass out, and if they vomit, it’s entirely possible that they may choke on it.

Drinking alone is far more risky than it is in groups. According to McColgan, when someone is drinking in a group, the other members of the group may be able to stop the intoxicated person from making bad decisions.

Freshman social work major Erica Walsh points out the dangers of drinking alone as well, “When you’re alone, there’s nobody to help you when things go wrong.”

This has several different layers; if you’re alone and drunk, with no other way to get home, the chances of drunk driving raise, putting both the intoxicated person and anyone else on the roads at risk. When a person is drinking, they are far more vulnerable, both mentally and physically.

When drunk, cognitive function is impaired, especially when it comes to making decisions. Bad things may happen, whether it is a hook-up that’s regretted only a few hours later or something far more dangerous, like speeding around a turn at ninety miles per hour.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 2014 champion Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was arrested for a DUI in Baltimore, Maryland. According to an article in the sports section of USA Today, police said Phelps “was driving 84 mph in a 45-mph zone.”

Kevin Holton, a senior English major said, “Even if you don’t drink a lot at one time, there are still long-term risks like addiction and liver damage, in addition to poor grades and bad relationships if you base your free time and/or social life to partying and drinking.”

Holton adds, “That’s why I don’t drink, i know too many people who use alcohol as a crutch to get by, not to mention a family friend got killed by a drunk driver a few years back. I, myself, was almost hit by a drunk driver last year. I prefer to avoid alcohol because of this. That loss of control scares me.”

The chances of being assaulted while drunk, especially for women on a college campus, are extremely high; they are often easily manipulated and are much less likely to put up a fight than someone who is sober.

According to an article on potsdam.edu, “Alcohol and sexual assault often happen together. According to some research, 30 percent of all sexual assaults occur when the perpetrator is under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, the victim is also intoxicated. Drinking makes it easy for the perpetrator to ignore sexual boundaries, while the victim’s intoxication makes it more difficult for her to guard against an attack.”

Elizabeth Roderick, a freshman psychology major pointed out some dangers as well. “There’s always the risk of a medical emergency, like having an allergic reaction or alcohol poisoning, and since you’re alone, there’s no way to get to a hospital.”

Drinking is risky for numerous reasons – the health effects from too much alcohol just being one of them. When drinking, these risks are only raised. Being alone leaves the person at even more risk, especially when there’s no way for them to get to other places. No matter how old you are, or how long you’ve been drinking, drinking alone is never a good idea, especially when all of the risks are considered.

IMAGE TAKEN from safetysign.com.