I think one thing we should be really glad for in Kenya is the fact that most of our youths in colleges don’t drive. If that were not the case then we would most probably be tallying up statistics about the number of annual car accidents caused by alcohol consumption.
In the US, 32 percent of all fatal accidents involved drunk persons between the ages of 21-25. Use of alcohol in teenagers causes 4,700 deaths every year which is more than the number caused by all illegal drugs combined. 1,800 college students die every year due to alcohol use, 600,000 are injured and 100,000 are sexually assaulted (http://goo.gl/iVPBuq). But the saddest of statistics is that 1 in 6 teenagers are heavy drinkers but only 1 in a 100 parents believe their son or daughter is a binge drinker.
In Kenya such statistics are impossible to come by. But having spent a few years in campus I think I have an idea of just how bad the situation is and its getting worse. It used to be that alcohol was for the select few and even then, only 3rd and 4th years were bold enough to do it. Nowadays, freshers come to school already savvy in the art of alcohol consumption.
Everyone says that it is simple innocent fun. After all, when will I get such an opportunity again. And the worst part of it all is that the situation is getting worse with students graduating to harder drinks such as spirits, leaving the soft beers behind.
The serious Permanent Consequences
Behind all this ‘fun’ is something most young people either don’t know or simply ignore – excessive intake of alcohol is DANGEROUS FOR YOU and the community. Just look at some of the following consequences. These are not just alarmist points intended to cause mindless panic. it is proven science. You can click on the links to read more.
1. Effect on your brain
In the short term alcohol will affect your judgement, stability, logic and personality. This is why it is easy to have unprotected sex with a stranger when under the influence. Though you may do stupid things with lasting effects, I want to focus more on the long term consequences.
- Depression – Alcohol is a depressant. Drinkers say that they drink to drown their problems (I don’t know what serious problems college students face). It seems to do so because it affects your memory to make you temporarily forget whatever issues you have. But over time, you start to get the blues every time you drink excessively. Over time, you become more susceptible to depression. Too much of it and suicidal thoughts start creeping into your mind.
- Brain shrinking – Your brain literally shrinks in size as a result of excessive alcohol intake over a number of years. Naturally, the brain shrinks as one ages but brains of people who take alcohol, no matter how little undergo a higher reduction in size. Research is still being done on whether this affects brain function but it has for long been known that brain shrinking is a contributing factor to dementia.
- Brain disorders – The liver is severely damaged by excessive alcohol. This in turn causes severe deficiency in a certain type of vitamin B called Thiamine. This results in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome which is characterized by memory problems, learning problems, confusion and lack of coordination.
- Addiction – not everybody who drinks alcohol is addicted to it. Binge drinking however increases the risk of alcohol dependence. Once addiction sets in your whole life including finances, relationships and health are negatively affected.
For most students in campus, the brain is still developing. It is simply the worst time to start assaulting it with alcohol. It may never grow to be what it was meant to be.
2. Effect on your body
Here the health risks are too many including liver damage, damage of the stomach lining resulting in ulcers, cancer (esophagus, throat, larynx, mouth).
3. Social problems
Anyone whose parent is an alcoholic knows how painful and traumatizing the experience is. But in college, students don’t think ahead. The problem is that they are too shortsighted. easily giving in to peer pressure is also an issue.
Some cases of alcohol-fueled family violence can be traced back to a casual approach to alcohol consumption in college. In short our colleges are breeding a society of drunkards who cannot contribute to social, economic or political goodness.
What to do
CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE. Binge drinking is not fun at all. A glass of good wine a day is not bad but if you think you cannot stop at that just be a total teetotaler.
Our institutions should take more action in educating students on the dangers of unchecked consumption of alcohol.