Alcohol and Academics. Blog Article #3

Alcohol alone won’t necessarily be a major detriment to your grades in college. Making it a part of your lifestyle will though. For this blog post, I chose to reference peer reviewed academic journals and reflect on the information they provide. Don’t be overwhelmed or scared off by this. I just wanted to make sure my data was accurate.

First Year College Students

A 2015 study by Gary Liguori and Barb Lonbaken provides an analysis of drinking behaviors, and their corresponding consequences, of first year college students. During the semester in which the study was conducted, 53% of the students, both male and female, reported at least one case of heavy episodic drinking (HED). Even though freshman reported the lowest mean HED cases and total number of drinks, the impact experienced by them is still clear. Compared to their non-drinking peers, first-year male college students were more than two times more likely to not be enrolled their second year. Drinking in college, and the activities associated with it, definitely have an impact on student’s grades.

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Drinking and Academic Performance

Another study, done in 2009, provides some insight into some academic problems associated with college drinking. The authors explain why their is such little scientific data on this subject though. The majority of undergraduate college students are under 21 and it is therefore both illegal and unethical to have them participate in studies. Research with adults has shown decreased memory retention, intellectual performance, and learning capabilities while under the influence. These affects do not last long after alcohol is flushed out of your body. Even though there are research barriers, useful data on college drinking has been obtained using surveys. An inverse relationship exists between excessive drinking and self-reported grade point average. The more you drink, the more your grades will plummet. Nonetheless, other studies mentioned in the article, such as one done at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that drinking has little to no affect on college GPA. The picture above reflects this to some extent. You can still excel in college even if you drink occasionally. It is only when you exceed a certain threshold that your academic performance is at risk.

It Isn’t Just the Alcohol

From both of the academic papers I read for this post, I learned that the problem stems more from the environment most students are in when they get drunk rather than the alcohol itself. Late nights out partying coupled with early mornings for class leave students with no time to sleep. The combination of feeling sick from a hangover and just being groggy from lack of sleep is what often causes students to miss class and perform poorly on exams. As I pointed out in my first blog post, it all boils down to drinking responsibly. Whether or not underage students should have such easy, unrestricted access to alcohol is a whole other issue. If your grades are suffering, especially if you’re in your first year, you need to do more than just reevaluate the amount of alcohol you consume. You need to make a major change in your lifestyle. Yes, drinking is hurting your grades; however, this only rings true if the term “drinking” encompasses activities such as staying up late and losing sleep. The link between academic inadequacy and excessive drinking is dependent on more than just the alcohol itself.

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Drunken Brains. Blog Article #2

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Before associating specific problems with college drinking, I think it’s beneficial to get a general sense of what alcohol does to the brain.

THE COLLEGE STUDENT’S BRAIN: NOT QUITE THERE YET

The average undergraduate college student is between the ages of 18 and 22. While only a fraction of them are of legal age, this certainly does not prevent them from drinking. Regardless, the following analysis includes students of both legal and non-legal drinking ages. A BBC news article explains that neuroscience has shown that human brain development continues into an individual’s late 20s. This includes development of a person’s emotions, judgment, and self-image. None of this will be set in stone until their prefrontal cortex is fully developed. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health points out that underage drinking “Can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, which continues to mature into the mid- to late twenties, and may have consequences reaching far beyond adolescence.” Alcohol, or any substance for that matter, has a more profound affect on underdeveloped brains.

Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/winter09binge/

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DRINKING TOO MUCH

CNN cites that most students, about 70%, who participate in underage drinking binge-drink. Heavy exposure to alcohol can cause severe, irreversible brain damage including, but certainly not limited to, memory loss and decreased memory retention. At a young age, these effects are more profound since the brain is not fully developed. To give you an idea of the distribution of how college student assess their own drinking habits, check out the pie-chart breakdown from a Harvard News post. Since this is a self-assessment, keep in mind that there may be some bias in what the students said about themselves. This is why this data does not match up perfectly with the CNN report I talked about.

THE DRUNKEN BRAIN: WHY IS IT SO DIFFERENT?

Alcohol begins affecting the brain in noticeable ways once you reach between 0.04 and 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC). When drunk, three primary parts of the brain are impacted: the amygdala (uhmig-duh-luh), frontal lobes, and the hippocampus. The amygdala regulates your comprehension of fear . The more you drink, the more this part of the brain is suppressed. You are less afraid of what the consequences of getting “wasted” will be after every drink you have. The frontal lobes in the brain regulate decision-making. Alcohol consumption temporarily degrades their functionality. This is why drunk people tend to make brash, illogical, and irresponsible decisions. The hippocampus is responsible for making memories in the brain. Alcohol consumption temporarily disrupts this function in the human brain.  Some students think they benefit from this because drinking may help them forget about their worries and responsibilities. Find out more here.

STUFF TO REMEMBER

  • Alcohol has a more severe affect on college students because their brains are still developing
  • More than two-thirds of students who consume alcohol binge-drink
  • Binge-drinking causes students to quickly and consistently get drunk
  • Above a BAC of 0.8, brain functionality is significantly impaired

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Is Drinking in College Really that Harmful? Blog Article #1

BACKGROUND

Hi, my name is Andrew Spangler. I am a Junior at the University of Maryland (UMD) majoring in Civil Engineering in the Clark School of Engineering. For my semester long technical writing project, I would like to explore and address a prominent on-campus problem. While the problem I chose to tackle exists on many college campuses, I have the ability to make the greatest strides in solving the issue by starting my investigation locally at UMD. One benefit of this is that I will be able to easily conduct primary research. In my weekly blog posts, I will provide different perspectives and analyses revolving around one central issue.

BUT WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

About 80 percent of college students drink alcohol. If such a large portion of the student body drinks, how harmful can it really be? It depends on how much individual students consume. Alcohol is not the problem. Overuse and dependence on it is the primary concern. Over the course of this fall semester, I aim to thoroughly explore the many facets of this issue.

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Alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse are two very different things. The old saying “drink responsibly” has significant credibility to it. At many college campuses, including UMD, this advice is often blatantly ignored. Between getting caught up in drinking games, social peer pressure, and trying to relieve the stress from classes, it is easy to exceed your limits with alcohol. For some students, alcohol is extremely addicting and leads to dependence on it. The Diamondback student newspaper reports that “nearly one in five underage college students [at UMD] have alcohol problems.” Based on both personal observation and basic preliminary research, excessive alcohol consumption, also sometimes referred to as binge drinking, causes a decrease in students’ academic performance.

WHO CARES?

This on-campus problem affects nearly everyone. This includes, but is not limited to, students, parents, and faculty. In addition to potentially harming the reputation of UMD with their inadequate academic performance, binge drinking directly affects the

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health of the students themselves. Excessive drinking causes diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and can have a negative affect on the immune system. These serious health detriments are apparent to most people. Students affected by health issues caused by excessive drinking will likely maintain them into their adult lives. Both the University Health Center and the Counseling Center should be concerned about this problem at UMD.  Regardless of who the responsibility falls on, action needs to be taken.

CLOSING COMMENTS

So, is drinking in college really that harmful? Though it doesn’t have to be, alcohol use is often abused by students. This carries with it both academic and health-related problems.

Thanks for taking the time to give this a read. If you have any feedback or suggestions for future posts I make, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

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