Whether or not students themselves make a conscious choice to consume alcohol, the suffering that may be an unintended consequence can often have a profound effect on the instinct for self-preservation that is ordinarily assisted by the ability to reason, and to flee from danger — according to the National Institutes for Health: “Consequences of excessive and underage drinking affect virtually all college campuses, college communities, and college students, whether they choose to drink or not.”
Many have said that the use of alcohol is a tradition, and a “rite of passage,” and while this may be so, another tradition – to “question authority” – has been prevalent also, and from time to time it is rather “blindly practiced, which can lead to a fate worse than being “blindly led” and is then no longer justifiable, since it’s no longer backed by the exercise of good judgement. It doesn’t take much alcohol, in many situatons for one to loose the capacity to act with good reason.
It’s been a challenge to parents – and to those who support young people in academic situations in loco parentis, in the place of parents – to warn students of that danger. Those who are involved in the sale and overall glint and glamour of strong drink certainly have a commercial axe to grind and for those who are no longer eligible to see pediatricians, it’s their legal right to consume alcohol – as long as that consumption is within the law.
Underage drinking is a different ball game. There are specific biomedical causes for restrictions to be in place for those who are underage, and anywhere from the age of 18 to the age of 24. These particular individuals are especially at-risk until their physiology can begin to safely consume alcohol.
The following are some fairly recent statistics from the NIH’s National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Assault: 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking … Sexual Abuse: 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape … More than 100,000 students report having been too intoxicated to even know if they consented to having a sexual relationship.
There are some unintended consequences that can occur the very first time a young person ever drinks to excess.
About 25 percent of college students report having academic issues that relate to their drinking including: “missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.”
Many others developed alcohol-related health issues, often not only in the area of mental health and at this age a surprising number of students report having attempted suicide. According to a 2009 study, more than 3 million students responded that they drive while they are under the influence of alcohol.
While other consequences included damage to property and involvement with law enforcement, one of the most dangerous unintended consequences is the prospect of alcohol abuse, because it can be so challenging to regain control, and studies found that close to one-third of college students had met the diagnostic criteria for that more specific condition. Although many can move into recovery, once attention is effectively brought to bear and treatment is available, once the student is able to understand the nature of the challenge.
The more insidious condition is the prospect of alcohol dependence — because it causes even greater harm, and causes that harm in a way that is gradual and therefore not easily noticed — and this can can then lead to a lifelong, and often enormously difficult, challenge to control.
From the NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information:
“Criteria for a Diagnosis of Substance Abuse
A. A maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
1. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household)
2. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
(e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use)
3. Recurrent substance-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for substance-related disorderly conduct)
4. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of the substance
(e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights)
B. The symptoms have never met the criteria for Substance Dependence for this class of substance. Source: APA 2000, p. 199.
Substance dependence is more serious than abuse. This maladaptive pattern of substance use includes such features as increased tolerance for the substance, resulting in the need for ever-greater amounts of the substance to achieve the intended effect; an obsession with securing the substance and with its use; or persistence in using the substance in the face of serious physical or mental health problems. …
Criteria for a Diagnosis of Substance Dependence
A maladaptive pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:
1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
a. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
b. Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
a. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance (refer to the DSM-IV-TR, Criteria A and B of the criteria sets for withdrawal from the specific substances).
b. The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance
(e.g., visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance
(e.g., chain-smoking), or recover from its effects.
6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or mental health problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g., current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression, or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).”
Alcoholics Anonymous has been shown to be the most successful means of recovery thus far. One of the central features of this program is illustrated in the 12 Steps of AA. Many individuals have been assisted through Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy.
A Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Mate, author of “In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts: Encounters with Addiction,” looks at the roots that many addictive behaviors have in common.