How Alcohol Impacts Your Overall Health
Health and Wellness

I Asked 30 College Students How They Feel Alcohol Impacts Their Health, And, Unfortunately, I'm Not Surprised

Drinking is not a positive coping skill and shouldn't be used as so.

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When one thinks of college, thoughts of drinking and parties usually follow. We have all heard the stories from our older siblings, cousins, and friends about the crazy events and things that happen during college, but drinking a bunch in one sitting is kind of, well, a lot. It's not all what the media makes it out be. No matter how much our society has normalized binge drinking, that doesn't lessen its toxic effects.

More than 1,800 college students die of an alcohol overdose every year – these are all preventable deaths. Binge drinking is drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in one sitting. Specifically for a born-male that's 5+ drinks and a born-female 4+ drinks. Whether you're 15, 21, 35, or 62, binge drinking is harmful. A human body is a human body, young people are not invincible. You can't avoid how a drug influences your body. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your systems and that's why you mumble and stumble when you've had too much to drink. It influences every part of your body, including your brain and your sleep cycle. Even if you're not really feeling a major influence, alcohol is altering how your body functions. That killer hangover is your body telling you that it's dehydrated. When you can't lift your head out of the toilet, your body is expelling all its stomach contents because it's freaking out. When you experience a blackout you're still walking around but your body has stopped making memories.

Don't get me wrong, alcohol can be an exciting addition to a celebration, but remember it is a drug that comes with responsibility. It can quickly become dangerous when used as an escape from reality. Drinking is not a positive coping skill and shouldn't be used as so. The next time you had a long day think twice about having that glass of wine, is there something else you could be doing to get yourself back together?

I'm not telling you not to drink – do you! But, be aware and stay safe.

I sent out a survey to college students from various schools and here are 30 responses, some of which reveal our warped perceptions of alcohol.

1. Celebration vs. dependence

"Alcohol (for me) doesn't seem to have too big of a negative effect when I use it wisely. For example, when I've completed all my assignments, taken finals, and done well in each class it's alright to celebrate it a bit. However, when I use it to avoid something that needs to [be] addressed, that's where it gets unhealthy."

- Male, 18

2. Mixed feelings about mixed drinks

"I have mixed feelings about alcohol, and I think if I didn't restrain myself it could be very dangerous. I like the taste of some spirits and have a high tolerance, I have no reaction to alcohol besides falling asleep easier. Because I have a lot of anxiety, I have a hard time falling asleep at night, and it is very tempting to drink to sleep easier but I know that's not healthy or sustainable. Otherwise, I enjoy drinking at home but not excessively or at parties. I hate the party scene associated with alcohol."

- Female, 21

3. Sorry, hunny, you're not special, your body is impacted

"It does not have an impact on me."

- Male, 22

4. The after "party"

"The next day I feel wiped, under the weather, and can't focus."

- Female, 20

5. Drunk munchies

"It makes me gain weight because I usually overeat when I'm drunk, it makes me have fun during but tired and exhausted after, but sometimes it has no effect."

- Female, 21

7. Anxiety plus sadness does not sound like a good time

"I don't think alcohol affects my physical or mental health significantly because I don't drink very often (probably once or twice every other week). When I drink, I feel more social and happy but afterward, when it wears off I feel bored. If I wake up with a hangover, I have some anxiety and sadness with a headache, if my hangover is really bad."

- Female, 21

8. Alcohol can put you at ease

"Happy/relaxed depending on [the] amount of alcohol intake. Afterward, feel completely normal unless dehydrated/drank too much in one go."

- Male, 23

9. Everyone with a uterus understands the pain

"Alcohol makes my cramping worse."

- Female, 21

10. We've got a climber

"It affects me in a way where I get louder and more energetic, i.e. wanting to dance, run around, climb things."

- Male, 20

11. Staring at the ceiling all night long

"Alcohol makes me tired both during and after. Usually, afterward, I also feel bored and not like sleeping."

- Female, 21

12. The range of hangovers

"Gives me a buzz but depending on the alcohol after could be fine to terribly hungover."

- Female, 31

13. Mood fluctuations

"As a guy, there's a lot of pressure to avoid being emotional. For me, a lot of that comes out at about mid-level of drunkenness. Any more than that and I basically just start uttering complete nonsense that makes me laugh to whoever I'm with and get very sleepy. If I'm in a bad mood though I just get angrier and [sadder] and likely to say things I regret out of anger. I've found it's about half and half for me. Peak drunkenness either half the time releases my emotional floodgates until I lose the energy to keep being upset and fall asleep...Or I just utter random half funny nonsense until I fall asleep."

- Male, 24

14. Have fun and be proud of yourself, but remember to be careful

"When I'm drinking, I feel very happy and mentally just alive. I also feel very relaxed and more in the mood to have a good time (down for anything mood). Sometimes the next day I will look back in my actions and be like why was I having such a good time, I was being so stupid. So afterward I will sometimes feel a sense of regret and disappointment in myself. Physically I haven't seen any changes but I know it is detrimental to my health."

- Female, 19

15. Don't talk to me, I'm in bed and not coming out

"It makes me so tired the next day that I can't do anything."

- Female, 22

16. There is a loss of judgement that can lead to bad decisions 

"Drinking alcohol I feel fine, as long as it's not hard alcohol, but I get drunk really fast as well as crazy hangovers for only a little bit of alcohol. I think that it also allows people to speak truthfully but that is not a good thing most of the time. I've also made bad decisions while drinking so overall I'm not a fan of the mental or physical outputs. "

- Female, 21

17. There needs to be a happy middle

"Makes me nauseous or makes me throw up. Usually makes me way less self-conscious and way less anxious. It's a tricky balance though, or it makes me depressed."

- Female, 22

18. Good reminder that alcohol is a drug with consequences

"I enjoy alcohol while drinking it, and can handle a good amount now. I have noticed that I gain [weight] more easily and more quickly when I drink, and it makes me sluggish the next day, even if I don't get a hangover (I rarely do). It's a really fun drug, but I try not to do it very often because of the lethargic effects."

- Male, 20

19. The ups and downs 

"When I drink, I feel very happy and carefree. I am more outgoing and willing to talk to anyone. But sometimes I can get very sad after drinking. I try to limit my alcohol consumption because I have mental issues and do not want to make them worse by excessive drinking. I also feel very bloated during and after drinking. Plus, it leads me to eat. I try to watch my figure and stay active. That is another reason I don't drink that much."

- Female, 21

20. Whatever you say

"Alcohol is the elixir of the gods."

- NA

21. Feeling guilty is never healthy

"If I have more than like two drinks in a week I feel bad about it and stop for a bit."

- Female, 22

22. Addiction is real

"Mentally – makes me feel great and more social in the correct settings. I feel physically bad the next morning, but not mentally bad. I believe it can be used to cope with things negatively, thus needs to be used carefully. Addiction is a real problem that is correlated with alcohol, however, that is also something that depends on the individual."

- Male, 23

23. So what you're saying is that it does have an affect on you


"Other than drunkenness/occasional hangover it doesn't really affect me."

- Male, 19

24. Drinking responsibly

"I don't drink as much as I did when I first got to college. Now, I have two-three drinks and I'm done for the night. It makes me sleepy, and often times gives me headaches. My hangovers are from tequila and they leave me groggy and I'll the following day. I enjoy a drink here and there, but can't drink every day."

Female, 21

25. Red flags all around

"Helps me get through the week."

- Male, 21

26. Lose control

"It affects me a lot and I have trouble controlling myself. I tend to blackout and have no filter when I'm drunk. Afterward, I feel shitty and I always regret spending so much money."

- Female, 21

27. The bloat is real

"Makes me feel out of it, exhausted the next day, very bloated."

- Female, 22

28. Drunk emotions take over

"When I drink it puts me in a bad place mentally, lots of drunk crying, makes me feel like shit in the morning and most of the next day, but I keep doing it because it's fun at the moment and I need a break from stress from school a lot of times."

- Female, 21

29. Nothing should make you feel this way 

"It makes me feel good at the moment, but the next day I feel physically gross and depressed."

- Female, 21

30. There are more positive coping skills that are essential to practice

"It can be a brief relief from the stresses of life but can become destructive if relied upon too heavily. [It] makes me feel relaxed and confident. Sleep tends to be deep, but waking up requires more effort. Sometimes headaches appear the next day if I had not hydrated well during. I feel like the day after demands a slower pace if anything. Too often in too short a period affects my intellectual performance."

- Male, 21

These responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.

If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse or mental health issues, call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
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