College Drinking

By Alta Mira

You started drinking in high school: sneaking beers with friends, raiding your parent’s liquor cabinet, attending (and hosting) well-stocked house parties. By the time you were a senior, you were drinking almost every weekend. You couldn’t wait to get to college and join the Greek life. And this was when the parties really started–every weekend there was some occasion to have a few beers with your brothers or sisters. Eventually you surrounded yourself with a group of like-minded partiers who were on an endless search for the next big binge. Almost anything became a reason to party: first day of classes, holidays, end of exams, obscure president birthdays, sun, snow, or rain. It was a drinking life for you, but you didn’t see a problem with that. You assumed it was just part of the lifestyle, and that it wouldn’t affect you after college. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a temporary thing. For some students, it was a college fad, but for you, it was the opening up of your latent addictive tendencies. Those college days of drinking have stayed with you–and now it’s time to acknowledge your addiction, and seek help for your alcoholism.
It seems obvious that students in Greek societies drink more–and there is ample research backing that up. But just how much more? A recent study showed that between their freshman and senior years, Greek students increased their number of drinks per week from five to eight–compared to an increase from two to three for non-Greek students. So not only are these students drinking over twice as much as non-Greek students, but they’re also increasing their intake more rapidly. This is always dangerous, but for some, it increases the chance of addiction. It opens someone up to a lifestyle that sticks with them. If this growth isn’t curtailed by graduation, where might it lead?
Nowhere good. With the increase in drinking comes a potential increase in negative outcomes.
We’ve all heard about the promising athlete who lost his scholarship due either to underage drinking, illegal activities performed while under the influence, or some freak accident that happened while drunk. And these are only the cases you hear about in the local paper. The effects touch far more students, and research paints a stark picture. Each year in the United States:
◦ Close to 700,000 students are assaulted by another student who has drunk.
◦ Over 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
◦ Close to 600,000 students suffer alcohol-related injuries.
◦ About 25 percent of students experience academic problems due to their drinking.
◦ 150,000 students develop alcohol-related health problems, and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent try to commit suicide.
◦ Almost 5 million students drive drunk, putting themselves and others at risk.
The saddest statistic of all: each year about 1,825 students will die from alcohol-related injuries.
You were one of the 150,000 students who developed an alcohol-related health problem while at college, and your drinking problem has followed you into the present day.
After college, you expected your drinking would slow down–after all, most Greek students are able to cut down their drinking after graduation. However, for you, Greek society was the catalyst for a lifelong addiction. You have realized that drinking has become a part of you, a part you can’t easily leave behind.
So maybe your drinks over lunch to discuss the latest ad campaign turned into two-hour liquid lunches. After-work drinks might have become an almost daily occurrence. Your weekends were a haze of bingeing. Alcohol might have been your escape from a hectic day–until one day, when it went too far. This was the moment when you realized you need help.
Seeking treatment seems like a daunting task. It is. Life or Death.

Substance Abuse Rampage: Report & NIH Update

NIH Report

A sobering report from the National Institute of Health offers an even more in-depth look at the potentially tragic effects of alcohol consumption, including cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and a higher risk for mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive drinking kills about 88,000 Americans per year—making it the third-leading cause of lifestyle-related cause of death in the U.S.
But it’s not just getting wasted that’s dangerous. Just this week the British Journal of Medicine released a study showing that even one small alcoholic beverage per day can raise your risk of heart disease—findings which call into question the concept that drinking reduces one’s risk of heart disease.

The results are the first of their kind to show how young adults’ drinking on a single occasion can affect their social status—and run in direct conflict to a plethora of studies on the negative impacts for the Americans who took part in 1.5 billion episodes of binge drinking from 1993 to 2001, according to a study from JAMA.

So while men and women who drink the heaviest may have benefitted short term—they’re likely to pay for it in the long run. In a recent American Journal of Pediatrics study, researchers found underage binge drinking is a direct contribution to the three leading causes of death—unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide. Those who binge-drank were more likely to report poor school performance, sexual assault, attempted suicide, and the use of illicit drugs

SUBSTANCE ABUSE STATISTICS

Like physical illnesses, mental and substance use disorders cost money and lives if they are not prevented, are left untreated, or are poorly managed. Their presence exacerbates the cost of treating co-morbid physical diseases (1) and results in some of the highest disability burdens in the world for people, families, businesses, and governments.( 2)

The impact on America’s children, adults, and communities is enormous:
The annual total estimated societal cost of substance abuse in the United States is $510.8 billion. (3)

By 2020, behavioral health disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide. (4)

In 2008, an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 and older in the United States had a serious mental illness. Two million youth aged 12 to 17 had a major depressive episode during the past year. (5)

In 2009, an estimated 23.5 million Americans aged 12 and older needed treatment for substance use. (6)

Half of all lifetime cases of mental and substance use disorders begin by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24. (7)

References:

1 Stein, M. B., Cox, B. J., Afefi, T. O., et al. (2006). Does co-morbid depressive illness magnify the impact of chronic physical illness? A population based perspective. Psychological Medicine, 36, 587–596.

2 World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Prevention of mental disorders: Effective interventions and policy options. Summary report. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO.

3 Miller, T., & Hendrie, D. (2009). Substance abuse prevention dollars and cents: A cost-benefit analysis (DHHS Pub. No. SMA 07-4298). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

4 World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Promoting mental health: Concepts, emerging evidence, practice. Summary report. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/en/promoting_mhh.pdf

5 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2009). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National findings. (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-36, DHHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434). Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.

6 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Vol. I. Summary of national findings. (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, DHHS Publication No. SMA 10-4856Findings). Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.

7 Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 593–602.

8 World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Promoting mental health: Concepts, emerging evidence, practice. Summary report. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/en/promoting_mhh.pdf