College students respond best to anti-heavy drinking campaigns that focus on things such as the positive health outcomes associated with lowering alcohol intake, a team of American researchers report in a new study.
More than 80 percent of college students use alcohol, and many of them don’t need much of a special reason to reach for a drink, but sometimes life provides them with one. Across the country, students on many college campuses celebrate special traditions — sometimes passed down for decades — that involve more chances for drinking than the usual weekend partying.
Binge drinking addiction is a habit that could kill you. Binge drinking means drinking too much in one sitting, enough to get drunk according to blood alcohol content. For most men this equates to drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in a couple hours, while for women the number is closer to four. If you binge drink, you aren’t alone. It’s a dangerous style of drinking that many people engage in, both adults and underage drinkers. Before you go on another bender, learn about the risk you’re taking.
Not all college drinkers have the same underlying motives for participating in alcohol consumption. In a study published in 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, a team of British researchers investigated the various emotional motives for alcohol use among college and university students. These researchers found that specific motivations tend to lead to specific outcomes for college drinkers between the ages of 18 and 25.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a well-known mental health condition that some people develop after exposure to life-threatening situations or other forms of extreme stress. Current evidence indicates that nearly one out of 10 U.S. college students develops symptoms of this disorder. In a study published in late 2013 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers from the University of Buffalo explored the link between PTSD and the dangerous practice of heavy alcohol consumption in college. These researchers found that there is a two-way connection between PTSD and heavy drinking.
ADHD stimulants are prescription medications designed to address the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which typically appears in childhood and can continue to exert its effects in adulthood. Significant numbers of people abuse these medications by taking them without a prescription or using them in ways not sanctioned by a prescribing doctor. In a study published in 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of American researchers examined how often people who abuse a stimulant ADHD medication also have problems related to the use/misuse of at least one other type of substance.
Alcohol and marijuana are two widely consumed substances known for their ability to alter consciousness and lower users’ emotional and behavioral inhibitions. One potential consequence of these emotional and behavioral changes is participation in unsafe sex. In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers from three U.S. institutions examined the specific ways in which alcohol and marijuana use can change the willingness of college-age women to use condoms when engaged in sex with familiar and unfamiliar partners.
Underage drinking is the blanket term used to describe any amount of alcohol consumption by a person below the legally mandated age of 21. Binge drinking is the term used to describe the rapid consumption of enough alcohol to reach or exceed the nationwide U.S. standard for legal intoxication. In a report published in August 2014, researchers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration looked at the differences in underage binge drinking participation that exist between America’s 50 states, as well as between separate regions within any given state.
ZIt’s easy to think of heavy drinking, even binge drinking, as an unfortunate but inescapable reality for teenagers and young adults. Many teenagers and those of newly minted drinking age experiment with alcohol use and frequently drink far too much in too short a time.
However, for the most part, young adults lose their taste for binge drinking and learn to moderate their alcohol consumption. This makes it even easier to shrug off heavy, irresponsible drinking among young adults and assume that they will eventually change their ways.
The problem with this line of thought (quite apart from the risk of alcohol poisoning or alcohol use disorders) is that heavy drinking in adolescence can do lasting damage to the brain. An increasing volume of research, including a new study from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, reveals the structural changes in the brain and memory that result from teenage drinking.
The Massachusetts study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, involved rats that were given daily access to alcohol during their adolescence. When the rats reached adulthood, the researchers discovered changes in the structure of their brains due to their exposure to alcohol. Levels of myelin, which is a fatty substance that coats nerve fibers in the brain, were reduced in the rats that were given access to alcohol at a young age. The researchers also found that adolescent alcohol exposure appeared to have a behavioral impact in addition to a structural impact: the rats who drank in adolescence continued to perform worse on memory tests well into adulthood.
This research suggests that human teenagers who drink heavily for a period in adolescence run the risk of permanent structural brain damage and impaired memory. Previous studies have also suggested this risk, but since they were performed on humans rather than rodents, the researchers were unable to control for various environmental factors that could be contributing to cognitive impairment.
There have always been risks associated with heavy drinking and binge drinking, especially among adolescents. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related car crashes, alcohol-related homicides or suicides or other accidents involving underage drinking. Furthermore, heavy drinking greatly increases the risks of alcohol dependence and other use disorders.
However, it has been easy to believe that those who escape serious harm, dependence or addiction during young adulthood will not suffer any consequences from heavy underage drinking. Research such as the new study from Massachusetts is increasingly demonstrating that this belief is not correct and that teenagers who drink heavily may be damaging their brains for life.
While it is too early to know for sure whether the results of heavy teenage drinking are likely to be permanent or simply long-lasting, this information highlights the importance of reducing heavy drinking and binge drinking among teenagers. It is not only important to help teenagers get through periods of alcohol experimentation and binge drinking without addiction or serious injury, but also to spread the knowledge that heavy drinking can be harmful, even if it does not result in any short-term consequences.
Alcohol screening tools are testing procedures used to help doctors identify people likely to have problems with alcohol consumption. A number of these tools are in common use in the U.S. and other countries, including the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and a short four-question test known by the abbreviation T-ACE. In a study published in 2014 in The International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, a Canadian research team assessed the usefulness of the T-ACE screening tool for pregnant women, not just as an evaluation of risky drinking practices, but also as a means of identifying women with mental health problems and inadequate support networks during pregnancy.