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Making An Informed Choice About Drinking

Alcohol is used in our society for a host of reasons, sometimes inappropriately. People tend to use alcohol to calm down, unwind, relax, increase self-esteem, lower inhibitions, or even to indirectly deal with a problem. In fact, alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system- specifically the way we think, act, and feel. When making decisions about drinking, it is necessary to know what alcohol does to you physically and psychologically.

Alcohol consumption can affect your body directly and indirectly. Alcohol is absorbed relatively quickly into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. After circulating throughout the entire body, the alcohol is then slowly broken down, mostly by the liver. Generally speaking, it takes approximately one hour for your body to break down the alcohol of one standard drink (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, or 1.5oz. of hard liquor). Consumption of alcohol over an extended period of time can lead to loss of appetite, heart, liver, and central nervous system damage, skin problems, vitamin deficiencies, and sexual impotence in men. Women that are pregnant not only run the risk of harming themselves, but also can harm the developing baby.

The short-term effects of excessive alcohol use can also lead to many problems. While intoxicated your judgment, coordination and vision are impaired; therefore, you tend to take more risks and make poorer decisions. If you drink too much alcohol in a short amount of time, the anesthetic effects of the alcohol can affect your deeper levels of brain functioning, resulting in a coma, or even death. Drinking and driving is a notoriously bad combination, but it still occurs even with stricter enforcement and widespread knowledge about the dangers involved. Why??? The effects of the alcohol on judgment and coordination impair the potential drivers decision making and the driver's reaction time while on the road. Some other high-risk activities associated with alcohol use include: working around machinery, boating, hunting, and even climbing stairs. Otherwise normal activities can become potentially dangerous when carried out under the influence of alcohol.

As alcohol use affects the body, it also affects behavior. Sometimes people who are drunk say and do things that they later regret. Alcohol blocks the messages traveling to your brain and alters your perceptions and emotions. If you drink while you are angry and upset, chances are that you will become even more angry and upset. A common reason that people drink is to make socialization easier by lowering inhibitions. This can lead to even more questions and problems. "Does she/he like me, or are they just acting out of drunkenness?" "I don't know what I was thinking last night, I am not attracted to that person at all." "She/he is fine when not drunk, but after a few drinks, it's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." These examples display how a source of relief can become a source of stress.

Some myths and facts associated with alcohol are:

  • MYTH: Getting drunk is funny.
  • FACT: Getting drunk is analogous to getting sick, and you lose control of your mind and body.
  • MYTH: Drinking will make you more attractive.
  • FACT: Drinking only makes you feel more attractive because of the short-term effects of lowered inhibitions, increased self- esteem and altered perceptions.
  • MYTH: Drinking increases sexual enjoyment, potential, and ability.
  • FACT: The more a person drinks, the less sexually capable he or she is.
  • MYTH: A cup of coffee and a cold shower are all that is needed to sober up.
  • FACT: There is nothing that can be done to increase the speed of the natural sobering process.

Another piece of information that is important to keep in mind is that it is against the law to drink alcohol if you are under 21. If you are found to be using alcohol if you are underage or giving alcohol to someone who is underage, this is a serious violation which can potentially damage your career at the College and leave you with a legal record.

Remember that the decision to drink or not drink is yours and yours alone. Someone who tries to pressure you into drinking probably is not looking out for your best interests. It is also likely that there will not be very many people who will remain by your side if alcohol should hurt you or get you into trouble in some way. Armed with factual knowledge, you can make a more informed decision and can take charge of your own future.