When College Drinking Becomes a Lifestyle: The Long Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
For many students, college is about getting a higher education, making valuable connections, following their dreams, and drinking. Over 80 percent of today’s college students drink regularly, with 25 to 30 percent of these students drinking at significant levels.
The good news is that two-thirds of these students end their partying ways when they graduate, becoming social drinkers that only have a few drinks a week. However, nearly one-third of college drinkers continue their problematic drinking patterns even after school’s out, putting them at risk for many of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol Changes Your Brain Function
Even if you’re a casual drinker, you’ve still felt the effects of alcohol on your brain. Even after one drink, your blood alcohol content rises, slowing the pace of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, it is when drinking becomes a lifestyle that true changes in the brain begin. The brain cells of long-term, heavy drinkers actually begin to shrink, negatively impacting learning skills, memory, motor coordination, mood, sleep, and temperature regulation. Some people who drink too much may even develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a debilitating mental illness that can include psychosis.
For those who cut back on drinking after college, they can experience a reversal of some of these negative effects. But for those who don’t, this damage may be permanent.
Alcohol Damages Your Heart
Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, but unfortunately, drinking too much can cause it great damage. Drinking excessively for years actually begins to weaken the heart muscle, a disease called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Because of this, your body does not get enough fresh blood supply, causing you shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen extremities, and an irregular heartbeat.
Another problem that can be caused by alcohol is stroke. People who binge drink are 56 more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than those who don’t.
Alcohol Contributes to Liver Disease
Alcohol is a toxin, which your liver works to filter out of your body. Because of this, excessive drinking takes a huge toll on the function of the liver. Even just drinking heavily for a few days can cause dangerous fat to build up in the liver, a problem called steatosis. Continuing to drink regularly can transform these small pockets of fat into full blown alcoholic liver disease.
Ten to 20 percent of people who drink excessively also develop cirrhosis, a potentially deadly scarring of the liver that can cause hypertension, excessive fluid in the abdomen, and brain function disorders.
Alcohol Increase Your Risk of Cancer
While anyone can develop cancer, drinking heavily greatly increases your chances. Around 5,070 cases of cancer per year are attributed to long-term alcohol consumption. In fact, the National Cancer Institute has identified alcohol use as a cause of esophagus, liver, breast, mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancer. Even more startling is the fact that alcohol and tobacco combined account for 80 percent of throat and mouth cancer in men and 65 percent in women. They are also responsible for 25 to 30 percent of liver cancers.
Since college is a short-term experience, the harm caused by drinking at heavy levels can usually be reversed. By continuing these patterns of drinking after college, many young adults risk suffering from the long-term effects of alcohol abuse. If you’re ready to get help for your excessive drinking, don’t be afraid to call our hotline at 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) . We can help you curb your alcohol use and stop these harmful side effects from happening to you.