Let’s talk about alcohol. In my opinion, the most abused substance. A staple in the American diet. A must-have for parties. A tool to let loose because when consumed, feel-good chemicals overwhelm the brain. They’re called endorphins and we crave more until our inhibitions are gone.

"I am more afraid of alcohol than all of the bullets of the enemy" - Stonewall Jackson

In America, the widely unpopular drinking age is set at 21 years old. But that doesn’t stop anyone. College parties are nothing without the keg, even though the majority of college students are under the age of 21. Why is it that drinking makes up a large part of college culture? When did it become so normal for underage drinking to take place? Underage drinking is illegal for a reason and indifference to the law will always bring consequences.

"Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking when blood alcohol levels are raised to 0.08 g/dL in two hours or less" - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The prevalence of alcohol in college culture has made underage drinking a norm so now, dependency on alcohol young people develop is hard to notice. Society has made drinking a social event: we drink to celebrate, drink to grieve, drink to relax, and drink to get hyped for a night out. Drinking is by no means “bad,” but bad things have to begin somewhere.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration labels binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month as heavy alcohol use. When people keep losing their lives from alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, or liver disease, it becomes time to call out the real issue, addiction to alcohol.

If drinking is interfering with your work, you're probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you're probably an alcoholic. ~Author Unknown

E. Morton Jellinek partitioned the road to alcoholism into four stages. The first stage, pre-alcoholic, when someone drinks more than just socially, and a tolerance builds. This is drinking to satisfy psychological needs, as when a rough day at work calls for a few glasses of wine. The second stage is called “Early Alcoholic,” when the person can’t resist drinking anymore.

Alcohol is apart of their life. The third stage, “Middle Alcoholic,” begins when the signs of alcoholism become obvious to family and friends. The act of drinking interferes with daily life, in this stage one drinks in the early morning or is irritable when they can’t get a drink. The body starts to show signs of alcohol abuse. The final stage, “Late Alcoholic,” consists of alcohol dominating the person’s life. Long-term alcohol abuse shows on the body and the drinker can’t go a single day without a sip.

“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

You may think, none of those are me, my drinking is under control. But is it? The common phrase, “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m just in college” needs to be thrown out the window.

Partying doesn’t end with college. Consumption of alcohol only increases after graduation, because even more social events revolve around drinking. It’s joked about way too often because dependency and addiction are serious matters. It’s important to know how harmful alcohol can be to your body. It’s so easy to let alcohol consume you when you think you’re just consuming it.

The solution? Know that lives have been destroyed by drinking. Don't end up as a news story, don't end up like that one alcoholic relative we all have. Be smart about alcohol. Know your limit.

“I think the warning labels on alcoholic beverages are too bland. They should be more vivid. Here is one I would suggest: 'Alcohol will turn you into the same asshole your father was.'” - George Carlin