Alcohol: The not-so-silent killer

Alcoholism in today’s society is extremely prevalent, we see it in movies, music videos and on T.V. It’s become mainstream and many college students are at an age where they will begin binge drinking for the first time. The media certainly glamorizes drinking, and movies such as “Beerfest,” “the Hangover,” “21 and Over” and the classic “Dude Where’s My Car” make light of binge drinking by laughing about trying to find one’s car after blacking out and/or attempting to piece together last night’s events.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is a pattern of drinking in which a person’s blood alcohol content goes beyond 0.08%, typically achieved when men consume five drinks and women consume four drinks over a two hour period. When I read this from the U.S. government’s Center for Disease Control website (CDC) I was fairly surprised. Here on campus and in my college years, I have witnessed fellow party-goers consume much more. Maybe it’s just the people I hang out with, but four drinks in two hours sounds pretty modest. In my experience, teens usually start drinking well before the legal drinking age of 21, and according to the CDC, 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 is in the form of binge drinking, and more than half of all alcohol consumed by adults in the U.S. is also in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive while impaired and alcohol related deaths are the third greatest killers, only behind heart disease and cancer. Alcoholism in this country is a huge danger to the public and costs approximately $249 billion annually in the form of health care costs, crime and loss of productivity.
So if alcohol abuse is such a problem, why do we make light of the potentially serious ramifications of blackouts and joke to our friends the next day about how “hammered” they were? Hollywood needs to stop glamorizing and promoting these habits, which for the one in twelve or 17.6 million Americans, is a progressive disease that will likely end in jail time or death.
I come from a long line of alcoholics on both my mom and dad’s side of the family, I have seen the destruction caused by alcoholism. This disease is characterized by heavy denial, so by the time some alcoholics come to terms with their problems, it may be too late. They may have already completely alienated their entire support system, friends and family; they may feel so depressed and consumed by their addiction that they wind up killing themselves because it seems like the only way out. They may have permanent health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, or worse, they may have decided to get behind the wheel after one too many and struck and killed an innocent person.
Drinking can not only negatively affect yourself, but everyone around you as well. Drinking and driving because you want to get home to sleep in your own bed or eat your leftovers is just about the most selfish thing you can do, putting countless innocent lives at risk, not to mention the expensive consequences of a DUI.
Signs of alcoholism include blackouts, relying on alcohol to feel at ease in social settings, getting drunk when you had not planned to, an inability to turn down a drink when offered as well as the inability to stop once started.
If you have concerns that you may have a problem, I urge you to seek help and support from the many free resources available such as CAPS. As I mentioned, this disease is progressive and will only get worse, never better. It is important to seek help now if you think you may have a problem with controlling your alcohol consumption.
Peer pressure can lead many of us to consume more than we had planned on, but the consequences are extremely serious and DUIs are not just something that happens to everyone else- it can happen to you even if you are just driving a block or two home, and it can potentially ruin your life forever. Think twice about why you are drinking, what mood you are in and the people you surround yourself with.
If you feel like you may have a problem with alcoholism or feel any of the symptoms, please see Sonoma State’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in STEV 1088. Call them at (707) 664-2153 to schedule a free appointment.