Alcohol is the most used drug on college campuses, so it’s important to know some of the risks and effects of drinking alcohol.
- Overuse of alcohol can have detrimental physical, emotional, and psychological effects.
- Alcohol consumption can lead to: increased short-term risks, including accidents, injuries, alcohol poisoning, violence, and unwanted sexual activity; longer-term health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive issues, and damage to other vital organs; aggravated mental health problems, including depression and anxiety; problems with academic performance, learning and memory, and loss of productivity; and dependency on alcohol as well as withdrawal related anxiety, nausea, hallucinations, and convulsions.
- Some factors can increase health risks of consuming alcohol and alcohol poisoning:
- Gender: women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol because they produce less of the enzyme that slows the release of alcohol in the stomach.
- Size and weight: smaller and thinner body types absorb alcohol more quickly.
- Overall health: any preexisting conditions or underlying health problems can increase vulnerability to alcohol and its damaging effects.
What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning? What should I do if someone has alcohol poisoning or has overdosed?
- Mental confusion/stupor/unconsciousness/coma, slurred speech, vomiting, nausea, seizures, poor coordination, slow/irregular breathing patterns (more than 10 seconds between breaths), low body temperature/bluish skin color/paleness.
- It is not necessary for all of these symptoms to be present before seeking help. If concerned about someone for any combinations of these symptoms, call GERMS (202-687-4357) immediately (Call 911 if off campus). By calling GERMS or GUPD, the patient and the individual reporting will not face disciplinary actions for alcohol related violations.
- Never leave the person unattended; turn the person on their side to avoid choking on vomit; if the person has been injured, do not move them, but wait for medical guidance.
- Before drinking:
- Eat a filling and satisfying meal — the food will help your body process alcohol more slowly.
- Consider in advance how drinking may affect any other commitments you have.
- Have a plan for getting home safely — stick with the same group of friends, have a designated driver, or prepare to use a ride-sharing app at the end of the night. If drinking in the Georgetown neighborhood, students can call SafeRides (202-784-RIDE) for a free ride home.
- While drinking:
- Space and pace your drinking, sticking to about one drink per hour.
- Sip drinks, avoiding shots, funnels, or chugging.
- Avoid mixed drinks and punches, and stick to one type of alcohol or mixing your drinks yourself.
- Keep track of what you’re drinking, and how many drinks you’ve had. Set limits for yourself, so you know when it’s best to stop drinking.
- Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to help slow your pace and stay hydrated.
- Avoid drinking if:
- You haven’t eaten
- You’re feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT)
- You’re taking prescription medications that could affect or be affected by alcohol (such as antibiotics)
Visit the Student Health Center’s overview of alcohol and other drugs for further information.