Well here is another example where I cringe at what society has instilled in many of us and especially our youth…that grows up to be the future adult generations in our world.
What is this topic… drinking alcohol!
I have researched a recent study that is going to be published in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology that examines how binge drinking, especially the famous “19th or 21st birthday” drinking greatly jeopardizes ones health.
In Canada the legal age to drink is 19 (18 in the province of Quebec) and in the United States it is 21. Despite this fact wherever one lives, the age where one is “legally” allowed to drink is usually celebrated by heavy drinking episodes in various bouts of partying.
Most young people accept this as a completely normal part of life and what is unfortunate is that most of society not only accepts it but in some cases even promotes these types of events. Naturally so, as there is a lot of money at stake here. As a fairly young person, no one can tell me that this is the way to go and it is in any way the “fun” thing, the “in” thing, or pull any of those “you only live once” ideas things to do.
The bottom line is alcohol is toxic to our body in small or large amounts and in the cases of “binge” drinking is EVEN more dangerous to our health and life span than most people realize.
Over 2, 500 current and former college students who had turned 21 were surveyed about their birthday celebrations. Out of this population, the researchers estimated that 49% of men and 35% of women had estimated blood alcohol contents of 0.26 or higher. This level indicates severe alcohol intoxication and could lead to dangerous health problems such as disorientation, coma and even death. That is on average 9 – 10 drinks per hour!
“This research should serve as evidence that there needs to be more public education about the dangers of 21st birthday binge drinking. The risks here are not limited to those with a history of problematic drinking, and there needs to be a strategy to address a custom that can lead to alcohol poisoning and, possibly, death” said Dr. Patricia C. Rutledge PhD – the study’s lead author.
To read the full study click here.
Some More Stats and Facts
Here are few staggering numbers I found quite disturbing from around the world:
BBC News quotes that alcohol-related problems are responsible for 22,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. While Alcohol-related accidents and illnesses land around 150,000 people in hospital each year. (Data from 2003)
BMJ (British Medical Journal) quotes that alcohol is responsible for the deaths of about 115,000 Europeans each year. (Data from 2006)
Minnesota Public Radio claims that according to a 2005 estimate, college drinking contributes to 1,700 deaths each year across the United States!
Deal.org writes that there are over 6700 alcohol related deaths in Canada each year, but also gives some other scary facts in their article on this.
MADD offers some scary stats on driving and alcohol youth consumption.
Excessive Consumption is NOT the norm
Okay so where do I start. I am shaking my head as I write this not out of disapproval but out of sadness. I could think “why…why would anyone want to put this substance into their body at all, never mind in huge quantities with all the facts out there today?” But, you do not need to answer that. I understand that many of us either:
a) lead very unconscious lives
b) don’t know enough about our body
c) “think” they don’t care or
d) “think” that drinking is the norm
Well I may be the minority when I say this, but drinking is not the norm. From a chemical basis alcohol is not conducive to our system AT ALL. You can tell yourself, “oh but it is only 1 drink”, or “oh but it is a special occasion”…or whatever idea or excuse you use to drink. I am sorry to break this to you if you have never heard this before but our body considers alcohol a poison.
How do I know? Because our liver has to detoxify it, our brain cells get damaged by it, our immune system response gets lowered by it, our fertility gets lowered from it, our cells can get mutated from it, our nutrient absorption gets decreased by it…and it can kill you if you drink enough on the spot – do I need to go on?
You do not need to be thinking right now of how you can combat and argue my comments – I am not writing this to turn it into a debate, but to shed the hard truth of how your body functions and what alcohol really is in its essence.
You may not like what I am saying and it may be making you feel uncomfortable right about now, but that is understandable as probably from the time you were a young child alcohol was all around you in one way or another. It is so ingrained into our society, our traditions and into our habits and brains that it is hard to see the other side of alcohol.
Binge Drinking Effects
Many people may know that alcohol is “somewhat” harmful, but most do not realize or understand why it is that binge drinking is even more dangerous.
In many excessive drinking situations, first and foremost many people quickly lose control and hence lose their judgment of how much they had and how much more their body can handle.
Secondly, in situations of binge drinking you are putting your body into an extreme state of stress and shock. There are guidelines which most adults know, of how much alcohol the body can handle to safely detoxify per hour. Unfortunately during binge drinking, these levels are seldom adhered to and hence bodies in these states often have to go into various “over drive” states in order to keep the major organs safe and working. Obviously this is not a good thing for your health.
These are the times that people start to lose sensations to pain, temperature, vision goes, etc. Why? Because your body cannot do its normal tasks and try to empty out this toxin in such high levels at the same time. Since there is too much of it, there is a higher than what body can handle level in your blood and hence it gets carried all around the body and contributes to the various ill effects.
If you still need me to paint a picture, I thought of this example: imagine your house is being infested by ants. If there is 1 or 2 ants in your kitchen, you easily eliminate them. If there are dozens, you have a bit of a harder time, but eventually you mange to get them all. But if you have thousands of them crawling all over each wall, you may go into a panic attack and try to scramble to kill one at a time – meanwhile being overwhelmed at the experience. Well during binge drinking your body is overwhelmed with “alcohol molecules” which to it are like the thousands of ants in your house.
Bottom line – I will never understand how anyone can drink the night away and then pay the horrible effects of the day after and ever want to touch the stuff again. I guess that will always be a mystery to me.
Okay, so I would love to tell you to never drink again – but that is not realistic advice. So to be “realistic” and meet the demands of the general public – if you are a responsible adult and you enjoy the occasional drink, then so be it. Do not feel bad and do what you choose. See one decision does not “fit all”. I always come back to the point that it all depends on what you want out of your health.
If you are okay with average health, then yes the occasional drink is okay for you as our wonderful body will make sure to minimize the damage of the alcohol inside of you. If you completely don’t care about your health and well being – then I guess drink as much as you want, just stay off the road and away from people you may endanger.
However, if you want an optimally working body then you need to understand that that means – no alcohol whatsoever, ever.
When I was in my late teens and early 20′s sure I tried alcohol, though I was never a fan of over consumption or the idea of getting “drunk” as I was not fond of how people acted under such conditions. As I continued my studies and researched and learned more, by my late 20′s I have abandoned alcohol altogether – no exceptions (including weddings or any other social occasions).
Remember this is the right decision for me and some to this day say to me “oh but don’t you feel like you are missing out” and to this (in my head) I reply “yes, yes I am missing out, I am missing out on the opportunity to injure my body and decrease the optimal workings of my system.”
And so you have to make the right decision for yourself – you can drink alcohol in whatever levels are acceptable to you, but hopefully educate yourself on this topic and do not be ignorant or deny what alcohol really is and what effects it has on your body – short term or long term. The younger you are, the more I would hope you heed this message as you have more to lose in terms of your life, your health and even the life of any future children.
If you are a young person especially attending college or university read the following article from suite 101, for some good advice that outlines the “10 Good Reasons to Avoid Heavy Drinking on Campus.”