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As a student living in the UK, binge drinking in college is visible on a day-to-day basis. It's an issue that is usually swept under the rug, or normalized with an increasingly alarming ease. Before college, I'd have never imagined that I'd be capable of drinking at least twice a week. Yet this is considered standard in some places.
At college, we have the tendency to glorify binge drinking and alcohol abuse.
"Omg I've gotten wasted two nights in a row, I'm such an alcoholic."
"Yo fam, last night I downed one LITER of ciroc. I was HELLA turnt."
"You mixed vodka, gin, whiskey AND beer? You're such a heavyweight, Connor!"
We talk about drinking huge amounts of alcohol for extended periods of time with such glee and delight, as if it's some sort of achievement. Really, we're just screwing up our liver and risking the start of a downward spiral that could lead to alcoholism (or worse)!
The issue of excessive alcohol consumption can have massive consequences, but it is trivialized to a huge extent among college students everywhere.
Every year, over 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related injuries. This includes injuries from driving under the influence of alcohol.
It's not just injuries to oneself that occur, but to others too. Annually, almost 700,000 students are assaulted by another student under the influence of alcohol. And as if that's not bad enough, alcohol contributes to the sexual assault of just about 100,000 students every year.
1 in 4 students also report academic consequences due to drinking. This includes falling behind in class, missing class altogether, failing exams and flunking the school year. It's hard to treat alcohol like a joke when it's inarguably harming yourself, your peers, and your grades.
Binge drinking can also have an impact on colleges as institutions. Studies have shown that 25 percent of college administrators at colleges with low-level drinking habits have complained about either "moderate" or "major" vandalism and property damage due to alcohol. The number stands above 50 percent for colleges with high-level drinking habits..
I spoke to Stuart Sowah, an alumnus of the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, about alcohol in college. Stuart is a staunch teetotaler, and I wanted to see what observations he's made on binge drinkers at college.
Craig Debrah: Stuart, how long have you been teetotal?
Stuart Sowah: I'm not gonna lie, I don't know what that means.
C.D: It means how long have you been sober?
S.S: Well the last time I drank was when I was about 13 years old. My brother and I raided our dad's alcohol cabinet and drank heavy spirits. I didn't get intoxicated though.
C.D: Did you get spanked?
S.S: Nah, to this day he still doesn't know about it!
C.D: So why exactly are you teetotal?
S.S: Many reasons. I've seen what it does to people. My friends started drinking when we were underage and I didn't want to start like them and ruin my liver. Alcohol is also super expensive.
C.D: Have your friends ever tried to pressure you into drinking?
S.S: Even my parents have.
C.D: How do you have the resolve to say "no", ALL THE TIME?
S.S: Peer pressure has never been an issue for me.
C.D: Tell me the top three craziest things you've seen drunk friends do?
S.S: Sleeping in the middle of the road, fighting yet missing every punch thrown, and extreme vomiting.
C.D: Extreme vomiting?
S.S: Throwing up every 10 seconds for a sustained period of time.
C.D: Stuart, have you ever encountered anyone at school who you think suffers from alcoholism?
S.S: Several. The worst one was a Welsh housemate of mine.
C.D: What was so bad about them?
S.S: When she got drunk, she'd vomit all over herself and still attempt to function normally with vomit in her hair, on her clothes and in her hands.
C.D: That's messed up. How often was she drinking?
S.S: Sometimes up to four times a week.
C.D: What do you notice about all heavy drinkers in college?
S.S: They all repeat the same dreaded line almost weekly; "I'm never drinking again". They all master their bodies very well and know how to get wasted as quickly as possible.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I spoke to a good friend of mine who had problems with binge drinking last year while in college. He has always been a heavy drinker, but he started getting sick and feeling extreme pain in his stomach and side after binge sessions. He asked to remain anonymous, so we've redacted his name and used a fake one.
Craig Debrah: Tell me about the problems drinking has caused you to have.
Lex: It started around February 2015. I was in Belgium at the time, and the morning after a night of heavy drinking, I had pain in my stomach and side. That was the first time I experienced it, then in September it happened again, although this time it was ten times worse. The pain was unbearable so I went to the hospital.
C.D: What did they diagnose you with?
Lex: They ran mad blood and urine tests and told me I had been drinking too much and that it was hurting my kidneys and liver.
C.D: Did they prescribe you with anything?
Lex: Nah, they just told me to stop drinking for the next three weeks and see what happens. I only lasted two though!
C.D: So you went back to heavy drinking?
Lex: Well, before the whole hospital thing I was bingeing about 3 times a week. After that I cut down to about once a week and didn't consume as much alcohol on any individual occasion. I've been good ever since.
When discussing the cons of alcohol, we tend to forget the very real health risks it can pose. My friend learned the hard way that our bodies simply are not built to tolerate large
Just to be clear, no one is saying to go teetotal and not touch a drop of alcohol anymore. My only advice is to be careful. Keep an eye on your consumption of alcohol and if problems start to arise more frequently, that's when you should start to ask questions.
When the fun stops, stop.