What About Drinking?

What About Drinking?

My first drink was a celebratory shot of tequila after prom. While I liked the way the liquor burned, I decided I wouldn’t drink again—with school, a part time job, and a handful of extracurriculars, I simply didn’t have time to spare. Once I graduated, I decided that drinking was an essential part of college life and I dedicated hours to socializing with my peers and experimenting with new drinks. My habits and routines quickly adapted to my new lifestyle–free time on weekdays was for studying and weekends, well… they were for binging and lounging.

Alcohol is heavily romanticized in our society; it has a strong presence at every celebration in our lives and is glamourized in media. As a result, drinking has become part of our lifestyles. The University of Victoria ran a study on alcohol consumption in BC and found that the average drinker (15+ years old) consumed a total of 537 bottles of beer a year (just under 1.5 bottles a day) (University of Victoria, n.d.) Why does it seem like the average post-secondary student consumes at least double that?

 

During my heavier drinking years, I consumed about 1,600 servings a year and told myself that it was okay (it was only on weekends). I thought those years were the best of my life but didn’t realize that I was miserable. The more I drank to socialize and fit in, the more I seemed to lose myself. Moving out and trying to make new friends was tough and I used alcohol to numb myself out.

It wasn’t until years after I stopped binging that I started to realize how much damage was done. We know that heavy drinking can cause serious health conditions (see sidebar), have heard horror stories of alcoholics that have ruined weddings and Christmas dinners and have watched shows where families are destroyed by the character that can’t keep their life together.

So, why do I, the girl that is genuinely happy drinking water at a party, the high achieving student that values her education, the woman that has recognized and realized the very negative impacts of ethanol on her mind, body, and relationships, and the daughter of a man who passed away with rum in his hand, still drink?

I drink for the same reason I started–it’s built into my life. A glass of wine with dinner, a flute of champagne at a friend’s wedding, and a shot before going out to dance. While I only drink socially now, I’ve found that the reasons to drink, or at least the reasons that other people want me to drink, are more prominent than ever before. The difference now is that I drink with reassured confidence. When I’m drinking, my intent is no longer to get wasted, it’s to actually enjoy the company I’m with (and the taste of my carefully crafted cocktail).

 

Please consume your alcohol mindfully, set your own boundaries, and enforce them. Don’t feel guilty about telling your friends to bug off! Figure out what influences your lifestyle, learn a few stress management techniques (proper sleep, balanced diet, movement, meditation, laughter, etc.), and keep an eye out for any impact your drinking habits might have on your health.

Then… drink. If you want to.

Positive and Negative Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Does it seem like the world can’t decide whether alcohol is good or bad for our health? That’s because there are a lot of dependent variables. We’ve used an article from the Journal of Medicine to summarize the effects of alcohol below (Grønbæk, 2009).

Increasing risk of alcohol

Generally, the more alcohol consumed, the more adverse the health effects. Low blood alcohol content (BAC) up to 0.1% has been proven to cause euphoria (the state of happiness and excitement that we aim for when we reach for a drink). However, higher BAC levels (0.25% to 0.3%) result in sleepiness and confusion, and levels higher than that result in coma and death.

Light to Moderate Consumption

Research shows that light to moderate consumers have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those who do not drink. While most agree that this is a causal relation, the research is still disputed on individual factors like sex, age, and previous lifestyles (eg. Someone that quit drinking after a decline in health).

Heavy Consumption

Heavy drinkers are also at higher risk for other health conditions including cirrhosis, liver cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and colon cancer. Traffic accidents, violence, and suicide are also more frequent causes of death.