By Brittany Russell
Beer. Vodka. Wine. Whiskey. No matter the type, alcohol is a huge part of our culture—especially as young adults. The media tells us that we should be drinking to have fun, friends tell us that it’s part of the college life, and we may have grown up with seeing alcohol at family parties and holidays. If alcohol is “so bad”, why is it such a big deal?
Personally, I never drank during high school and never thought it was difficult or tough to “say no”. I knew I was underage and didn’t want to risk getting caught or in trouble. However, when I started undergrad, that pressure to say no became a lot harder. I wanted to feel like I was getting the full college experience. Alcohol seemed to be everywhere and if I wanted to go to a party to hang out with my friends—but not drink—I found myself constantly being asked why I wasn’t.
Even though it seems like alcohol is everywhere, it’s not. The majority of college students who drink, choose to do so responsibly. And, while it depends on the school, 20% of students at my alma mater chose not to drink at all. In 2010, 63% of Missouri high school seniors did not use alcohol at all in the past month. The vast majority of people are making safe and responsible decisions regarding alcohol use.
If you choose to use alcohol know the risks. Alcohol has a huge hand in decision making. Around a .06% BAC (below the legal level) is when alcohol starts affecting the part of your brain where judgment calls are made and your inhibitions are lowered. You may try that cigarette, have sex with the guy or girl, or get behind the wheel of the car even though your sober self wouldn’t ever do those things. Learn about what affects a BAC and have a plan for your night before drinking. Also, while many people think that they should watch their drink to make sure no one puts GHB or Roofies in it, alcohol is the number one date rape drug. While you should still watch your drinks, you should also count them and make sure you know how much alcohol is in what you are drinking and how much alcohol you’ve had throughout the night.
Also keep in mind that a person’s brain is not fully developed until their mid-twenties. Drinking alcohol heavily and early in life increases the risk of alcoholism and other negative effects.
Learn more about alcohol on your own. Learn about the way it affects your brain, the consequences for drinking underage, and the laws in your state. Talk to others who have personal experiences about these issues. Don’t just make a decision on these issues because what you think other’s are doing—people will respect your choice. I learned that just because alcohol seemed like a big deal, doesn’t mean it actually is. And I didn’t miss out on anything by choosing not to drink.