Binge drinking, it seems is a critically global issue and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol from any age is unwise but drinking from an early age is not only dangerous but it is becoming more widespread. Unfortunately during college years, in the majority of cases, a social life is part and parcel of a further education; students are notorious for their partying lifestyle which of course, involves alcohol and/or drugs. Being young and carefree does not always strike a chord as to what the future consequences will result in when alcohol plays a sizeable part in early life.
As well as causing the obvious health implications and sometimes fatalities, drinking excessively can also lead to behavioural problems. In the short term there can be a proneness to accidents both in the home and on the road; reflexes are lessened by the intake of alcohol which in turn affects the ability to judge certain situations. There is also the temptation when inebriated to drive an automobile, this happens far too often which not only puts the driver at risk but can sometimes endanger innocent passengers, pedestrians or indeed passengers and drivers of other automobiles.
The possibility of engaging in violent crimes, neglect or abuse can also occur when drinking to excess. Over the longer term, health wise, the liver will suffer which places it at risk to Cirrhosis, there can also be a higher chance of cancer and /or high blood pressure, which can then cause a number of subsequent illnesses. If the binge drinking then develops into a constant excessiveness the issues can become more severe. Clinical depression is one of these issues; attempted suicide, personality disorders and intellectual impairment are all factors of this deterioration in a person who abuses alcohol.
Alcohol poisoning is a frequent issue, especially in those individuals engaging in drinking games and shots of pure alcohol. The content of pure alcohol is consumed without the individual realising the strength of consumption. Sexual problems can also be present as the effects of drinking more than the recommended amount can affect a person’s libido. As alcohol reduces inhibitions it can heighten the risk of unprotected sex, assault or rape, all of which can then sadly result in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
If a person is then carrying a disease and continues to sleep around whilst drinking alcohol, the problem multiplies. (Staying Healthy – Drinking) None of the above will figure in a teenagers thought process when considering their social behaviour, ‘it’ll never happen to me’ is perhaps too generally considered. Due to peer pressure and sometimes study pressure a pupil will become a victim of their own behaviour due to alcohol or drugs. Weekend drinking turns into mid week drinking then before any real awareness is felt, a dependency has arisen.
Of course, whatever course of action an individual takes is their own responsibility but there has to be some kind of advisory involvement from parents. Approaching this issue can sometimes be sensitive as a teenager is not always receptive to advice, good or bad but studies have shown that a parent’s opinion and guidance do make a difference. If handled in a non confrontational manner, a parent can enlighten their child of all the necessary information without appearing dictatorial.
Other beneficial action is for a parent to have a consistent interest in their child’s education and personal life, this can perhaps assist in recognizing any alcohol mistreatment and prevent increased intake or certainly reduce it. Notifying a child, no matter how old they are, of all the risks and primarily pointing out the illegalities will arm them with all the information they will need to hopefully make the correct decisions where alcohol and drugs are concerned. (Ciscoe, 2007-2008)
In a stark account of the dangers of alcohol and the outcome of a group of holidaying college students, Jeanette Szwec writes of partying, drinking heavily, passing out and the fire that killed them. (Szwec, 2007) Sadly, this occurrence is common; alcohol was certainly not the cause of the fire but had the students not ingested so much, they may not have passed out into such a deep sleep, therefore the chances of them waking and raising some kind of alarm would have been greater.
As the issues surrounding alcohol presence in college students grow, certain Universities are now introducing alcohol and drug policies into their campuses in the attempt to make a change to this worrying epidemic of substance abuse. At the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, the 2008 Alcohol Policy is a clear and concise indication of what the institution expects and adheres to where alcohol and drugs are concerned. It specifically highlights the effects substance abuse can have on an individual and the people around them; relatives, colleagues and other students also become involved and affected.
It underlines the facts with regards to indiscrimination; alcohol abuse can affect anybody, regardless of age, colour, sex or culture and providing informative literature and educating all of its members as well as offering counselling seems a practical and resourceful plan of action where other academies should follow suit. Primary prevention is aimed at students who choose not to use alcohol; reinforcing important and responsible decision making surrounding illegal substances within the University.
Secondary prevention targets students who are at risk of abusing alcohol, those who already drink and perhaps think they will not develop a problem. The tertiary prevention is intended to facilitate students who are already being treated for alcohol and drug issues. The plan directs itself more towards preventing relapse and maintenance of recovery whilst studying on campus. (2008 Alcohol Policy, 2004) G Alan Marlatt Ph. D is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. He specialises in cognitive behaviour therapy, a style of psychotherapy that emphasizes the significance of thinking in how we feel and what we do.
(What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? , 1996-2008); he also lectures in addictive behaviour and harm reduction. Marlatt has published a book; ‘Harm Reduction: Pragmatic Strategies For Managing High Risk Behaviors’ which advises of a set of principles shaped to assist an individual; based on strategies to reduce the risk factors when engaging in any type of damaging behavior. This does not always necessarily involve alcohol, it can be syringe use, smoking, gambling, and unsafe sex; even a homosexual needs to be aware of harm reduction as their lifestyle and sexual behavior can cause high risk consequences.
Harm reduction does not condone addictive behavior but it certainly promotes the management of such behavior within a safe environment and a safe outcome. Harm reduction is primarily aimed at individuals who already have an addiction but also seeks to promote the importance of preventing any addiction in the first instance. Whilst encouraging self responsibility and personal choice, harm reduction upholds any ongoing behavior and treats that behavior with education and information.
The cognitive behavior therapy maintains the concept of being in charge of ourselves in mind, not by object; in other words the bottle of alcohol does not force its way into a person’s mouth, they want to drink it, and the need for it is controlled by thoughts. Thinking about why the mind wants to drink the bottle is a much more successful approach to getting to the bottom of the initial problem to drink. Teaching a person how to respond to peer pressure is another method of harm reduction. (Marlatt) Harm reduction programs have been recognized worldwide and many countries are now adopting codes of related conduct.
The IHRA (International Harm Reduction Association) have held conferences around the world since 1990 and has been a dynamic influence on providing awareness and information regarding this matter. Alcoholism and substance abuse, even gambling and sex addiction needs to drop the stigma label and embrace the fact that we live with and are affected by these issues. It is a well known fact that ignorance leads to intolerance which in turn leads to compliance and that can only be a dire consequence for addicts.
We do not need to turn our backs on them, we are all subjected to some kind of harm whether it be legal or illegal. Adults who drink to excess are not breaking the law but if there were strategies in place when they were younger and it was illegal for them to drink, there may not be an ongoing problem in later life. To be forearmed is to be forewarned and if a person is educated as to the implications of excessive behavior, especially at a younger age, it can only serve the purpose in which it is meant, that of prevention.
The IHRA aims to enrich the health of the public by protecting human rights of people who abuses substances, be it alocohol or drugs. (What We Do, 2006) Many countries are now accepting that there needs to be change where alcohol sales are concerned, especially where younger adults are concerned. The promotion and excessive sales pitch of alco-pops over the last decade has been mainly driven at the younger end of the market which has only caused the problem we have today with teenage drinking.
Whereas once upon a time a spirit and mixer was considered a grown up, unaffordable luxury, it is now readily available in bottles with a higher content of alcohol within a bottle. Happy hours and free shots on entry to a bar encourage excessive behaviour and only result in problems mentioned previously; violence, promiscuous activity or accidents, deeds that would not otherwise be entertained. Drinking, especially binge drinking and alcoholism is becoming an extensive communal problem and due to the fact alcohol is a legal product, there is little the law can do to uphold any kind of control.
Harm reduction is not wholly about control it is about taking responsibility. As well as criminal and social behavioral connotations, mental health is predominantly affected by excessive drinking. Harm reduction programs not only assist in the issues of substance abuse but they also deal with the escalation of concerns surrounding conclusive behavior. Sometimes excesseive drinking engrosses a person in a circle of life they feel they cannot take a step back from and the programs are basically in place to assist people in this detachment from the norm.