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The number of college students engaging in binge drinking is a matter of growing concern. Binge drinking has been associated with poor school performance, prolonged alcohol misuse, and problems with the family. Intoxication which implies loss of judgment ability, motor control and reduced inhibition is a serious problem among binge drinkers. Loss of judgment is responsible for several cases of violence, unprotected sexual intercourse, problems with the police and sexual assault. Loss of motor control is directly behind alcohol related accidents, injuries and deaths while prolonged alcohol misuse predisposes students to alcohol tolerance and illicit drugs. Risky sexual behavior leads to unplanned pregnancies, HIV infections, birth defects and a host of other sexually transmitted infections. Poor academic performance often characterized by low levels of educational attainment and problems in career advancement, is both a short term and long term effect of binge drinking.
Binge Drinking and Health
Since binge drinking leads to alcohol tolerance, repetitive consumption increases the risk for a prolonged alcohol misuse which predisposes students to long term negative health effects of alcoholism. Binge drinking negatively impacts on health both in the short term and in the long run. Alcohol; consumption has acute effects on cognitive and motor functioning. The degree of the impairment depends on the nature of the task to be performed but generally, the degree of impairment increases with the increase in the concentration of alcohol consumed. While the initial dosage of alcohol may lead to euphoria and behavioral stimulation, this is quickly replaced by a sedative effect. Behavioral stimulation is due to the effect of alcohol on cognitive processing and motor functioning. Impairment of cognitive processing contributes to a reduced degree of attention while an impairment on motor processing is responsible for alcohol related accidents, injuries and deaths.
Most effects of binge drinking on health are long term in nature. Binge drinking causes both immunodeficiency and a host of autoimmune reactions. Alcohol dependent individuals have extremely high levels of B-lymphocytes and the highly elevated levels is associated with immunodeficiency. Indirect effects on the immune system include liver damage. The increase in the level of immunoglobulins in blood is stimulated by the fat that individuals who consume high levels of alcohol have a high risk of immunodeficiency diseases like HIV infection, pneumonia, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C as well as autoimmune diseases like alcoholic cirrhosis, kidney diseases and alcoholic hepatitis.
Binge drinking has both acute and chronic effect on the cardiovascular system. For moderate drinkers, alcohol has a protective function on the cardiovascular system possibly due to the increase in the level of high density lipoproteins which helps in the reduction of blood cholesterol levels. However, acute exposure to high concentrations of alcohol, as in binge drinking, can precipitate myocardial infarction and lead to sudden death(Mittal 167). This can be explained by the increase in the levels of low density lipoproteins, clotting, arrhythmia and hypertension. These cardiovascular effects can become apparent within 12-24 hours following or during binge drinking. Chronic exposure may lead to cardiomyopathy later on in life.
Most of the alcohol consumed is metabolized in the liver. This means that the liver is highly susceptible to damage by toxic metabolites of alcohol like acetaldehyde which stimulates reactions that can cause tissue damage. Thus, binge drinking among college students predisposes them to liver related illnesses such as liver cirrhosis. Liver diseases are related to the increase in cytokine levels. This increase causes cellular injury and or even cell death. Different types of cytokines have been incriminated in alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and fatty liver(Alagna 28). Even though these consequences develop after a long time, binge drinking among college students predisposes them to alcoholism during their adult lives and subsequently the various liver diseases.
Several population based epidemiological data show that alcohol significantly plays a role in cancer development especially as the dose of alcohol intake increases. Heavy drinking not only predisposes one to persistent alcohol abuse and dependence but also to cancers of the upper gastrointestinal system. Such as cancers of the mouth, pharynx and esophagus. Chronic binge drinking predispose students to liver, breast and colorectal cancers. The mechanism through which alcohol causes cancers involve the release of acetaldehyde and the interaction of alcohol with certain enzymes in the body(Anderson 36).
Binge Drinking and Grades/GPA
Regardless of the predisposing factors to binge drinking; such as environmental and genetic factors, binge drinking has been demonstrated to affect the student’s academic progress. It has a direct effect on the student’s cognitive abilities as well as the study habits. Students who occasionally engage in excessive and compulsive consumption of alcohol miss classes and are unable to catch up on their coursework. The frequency of alcohol consumption profoundly affects the students GPA than even the amount of alcohol consumed. By missing classes and studying less and less, their GPA will be affected. In addition to this, students who binge drink may inflict grave physical injuries to themselves either through falls or fights. In cases where the injuries are serious as to warrant a comprehensive treatment program, the loss of class hours will directly affect their performance.
Even though performance is influenced by several preexisting factors, several studies have confirmed that students generally under perform in a project or a test if they had engaged in binge drinking the night before the assessments(http://www.focusanthro.org/). Thus, in addition to factors such as lack of interest in classwork, dislike of the professor, high and unrealistic demands on the students and individual differences, binge drinking also plays an integral role in poor academic performance.
Binge Drinking, Violence, Crime, Injuries and Accidents
Excessive, compulsive and frequent drinking has been associated with violence such as in fights leading to physical injuries, aggressive physical assault and sexual assault or even group or gang violence in pubs and clubs. Violent acts during periods of intoxication is promoted by relaxed standards of accountability, time-out and deviance disavowal. Alcohol consumption is a common cause of violence whether its is in the bar, at home or at a football game. Alcohol also predisposes students to suicidal actions. Almost all violent incidents by students involve those who had consumed alcohol before the incident. Research also suggests that the severity of the violent act is directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed(Anderson 34).
However, the relationship between violence and binge drinking is not unidirectional. The relationship is clearly observable in the presence of alcohol inhibition. For instance, a student may resort to violence after being accidentally pushed in a bar without the realization that such a socially inappropriate behavior may lead to arrests(Anderson 34).
Moreover, alcohol is believed to give confidence to do almost everything in the world. With confidence comes impulsiveness, arrogance and recklessness. The desire to offend somebody or being to friendly with strangers can lead to disastrous consequences. Due to loss of judgment college students may engage in drunken offending, irrational risk taking, sensational seeking behavior and disorder. Coupled to these is the perceived sense of fun and enjoyment and a diminishing realization of their surroundings and the consequences of their actions. Being aggressive and argumentative with strangers often lead to physical fights and assaults which not only lead to injuries but may also lead to death in certain cases. In such a state, the risk of alcohol poisoning is heightened and the probability of accidents increased(Engineer et al 26; Neistein et al 53). Injuries may arise from unintentional boating or automobile accidents, fires or falls. The increase in the risk of injury is a result of impaired motor and cognitive functioning, and increased risk taking behaviors.
Binge drinking does not only negatively impact on the drinkers alone, with an impairment in judgment, students have been involved in criminal activities that are related to sexual assaults or physical assaults like rapes and beating up of peers. Because, binge drinking exposes one to other dangerous illicit drugs, the chances of engaging in criminal activities to fund their luxuries rises. Students may engage in robbery, drug trafficking and prostitution to generate income for the episodic consumption of alcohol. Damage of property when drunk is also a serious issue.
Binge Drinking, Sexual Behaviors, Reproduction and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Risky sexual behavior is characterized by engaging in sexual intercourse without giving any consideration to disease prevention measures and birth control measures. These behaviors are stimulated by episodes of excessive alcohol consumption. Under certain circumstances, acute effects on cognition and motor increase the likelihood of unintended sexual behavior and subsequently unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted disease infections. Alcohol disrupts normal patterns of self protective behavior especially among students. In adults this risk is slightly reduced because self protective behaviors have become more established and more habitual(Anderson 35).
Excessive and frequent alcohol consumption in men is responsible for a decrease in testosterone levels which is in turn associated with atrophy of the sexes, decreased libido, impotence and decreased fertility. Among college students, binge drinking may result to sexual dysfunction and a host of obstetric and gynecologic problems like miscarriages and menstrual problems. In case of pregnancies, alcohol abuse may lead to the production of an offspring with physical and psychological deviations due to chronic exposure to alcohol(Anderson 37). Craniofacial effects, growth deficiency and mental retardation are some of the effects of chronic alcohol exposure.