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Why Drinking Too Much Sucks

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HANGOVERS

The light shining through the window seems to penetrate through your eyelids into the back of your skull. You’d kill for a glass of water but die if it came with food. Your guts feel like they’re being punched from the inside out, and whatever happens next is going to happen in the bathroom. You have at least a couple of the following symptoms: headache, malaise, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, the shakes. You might also be dehydrated and feel generally slow—a little stupider, a little less coordinated.

You, my friend, have a hangover. And hangovers SUCK. There is a bunch of science as to why hangovers happen, but it all ties back to the fact that you drank way too much the night before. Hangovers can sometimes last for days, dragging on your mood, your performance at school or work, and set you back in your athletic training. However, it’s important to note that some people rarely ever get hangovers… and frequency and severity of hangovers after a night of heavy/binge drinking increases with age.  Young people actually experience less side-effects (like hangovers) after drinking too much, but the permanent damage it causes to a youth brain is much more severe, including addiction and impaired brain development.  One of the best tips to reducing your risk of hangovers: don’t drink beyond your limits and stay hydrated by drinking non-alcoholic beverages (like water or gatorade) between drinks.  Alcohol is a diarrhetic, which often explains why heavy drinkers often frequent the loo.

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Lost Memories

Ever wake up and not remember what happened the night before? Ever open Facebook and poop your pants? These are called “Blackouts.” Drinking too much alcohol actually shuts down a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating long-term memories.  This is why after a night of heavy/binge drinking, it’s sometimes difficult to recall certain events… or the entire night all together.  We believe in creating and retaining awesome memories… and drinking too much gets in the way from that happening.

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BAD GRADES

Going to class and paying attention in the morning is tough enough as it is… and waking up with a hangover doesn’t make it any easier. Which is probably no surprise when Harvard School of Public Health found that 1 in 4 College Students “admit” academic consequences from drinking too much, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. (1)  

But drinking too much can also have serious consequences on your ability to learn and retain information, as it shuts down a part of the brain that aids in memory formation (see Lost Memories). Unfortunately, it's not as simple as just not drinking when your studying. Memory formation is a complex process and takes a long time. Many of your memories are solidified when you are not thinking about the material. In fact, much of memory formation occurs while you sleep. Alcohol effects your sleep cycle by disrupting the sequence and duration of normal sleep, reducing your brains ability to learn and retain information. Even drinking up to six hours before you go to sleep will negatively effect your sleep cycle, reducing your ability to retain information you learned or studied that day.

Dr. Jensen, a nationally recognized neurologist and author of the Teenage Brain, cites scientific studies showing students who participate in sporadic heavy drinking perform worse on tests of verbal and nonverbal memory than students who do not drink, and girls in particular exhibit poorer visual-spatial functioning.  Adolescent boys who drink show greater deficits in attention, such as being able to focus on something that might be slightly boring for a sustained period of time (aka any form of studying).  Dr. Susan Tapert, a psychiatrist at the University of California, says that the magnitude of difference between those who drink too much and those who do not is about 10 percent, which she likens to the difference between an A and a B on an exam.

(1) source: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/07448489809595621

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ADDICTION

Addiction is the 3rd leading cause of death in America, and is 100% preventable.  Alcohol addiction effects over 17 million people in the United States. Addiction destroys relationships, families, and individual lives.  And once you develop an addiction, the only form of recovery is complete sobriety.  So if you want to enjoy drinking for a lifetime, then you should drink in a way that will not put you at risk of developing this disease.

So, how do you avoid addiction? Research shows that if you never abuse alcohol (meaning getting drunk or drinking for the wrong reasons like to relieve pain or stress) then your chances for addiction are very small.  Also, research shows that by waiting until you turn 21 can reduce your risk for addiction by up to 90%. The reason is that an adolescent brain is in hyper growth mode through your early 20’s, so alcohol has a much higher impact on brain development during those years.  90% of people with addictions started drinking or using before the age of 18.  If a person abuses alcohol before 18, they have a 1 in 4 chance of developing an addiction.  If that same person waits until 21, their risk drops from 1 in 4 to 1 in 25.  So if your younger siblings or children ask why they have to wait until 21… the answer is “because addiction.” More great information, including a short video on how addiction works, can be found at Wait21.org.

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Hurts Your Game

If you’re an athlete, or training for an athletic event, you need to be extra cautious about your alcohol intake.  Alcohol negatively effects athletic training and recovery, which will set you back on game day. 

1) Alcohol disrupts your body’s ability to absorb protein, impacting protein synthesis that helps you build muscle. 

2) Alcohol impairs sleep, which robs the body of a precious chemical called human growth hormone (“HGH”), which is released during sleep. HGH is vital in the growth and repair of your muscles, but alcohol can decrease the secretion of HGH by as much as 70 percent! Unsurprisingly, the studies back this up. In 2012 a group of researches at Massey University in New Zealand published a series of studies showing that the consumption of alcohol post-exercises severely restricts an athlete’s ability to recover from delayed-onset muscle soreness.

3) Alcohol lowers testosterone. The presence of alcohol in your body triggers a multitude of chemical processes, including the release of a toxin from your liver that attacks the amount of testosterone you have. A 2009 study published in Bonefound that frequent drinkers in the armed forces had significantly low testosterone levels, as well as high estrogen levels. This is important because estrogen lowers the amount of testosterone in the body, and yep, you guessed it, alcohol slows down your ability to process estrogen, allowing it to build up in your blood stream.

4) Alcohol is a diuretic that promotes the production of urine and dehydration (which is why alcohol causes you to pee so much!). Dehydration leads to bad athletic performance, including greater risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injuries such as cramps and muscle strains.

5) Alcohol consumption causes vitamins A, C, the B’s, calcium, zinc and phosphorus to all be drained at rapid rates. It’s essentially like taking one step forward and two steps back. Which is probably how you’d walk when tipsy, ironically enough.

6) Alcohol makes you FAT. Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram, meaning that you could be drinking a hefty meal on a night out without even realizing it. Unfortunately, your muscles are not able to use these calories for fuel, as instead of being converted to glycogen (a form of stored carbohydrate) your body treats alcohol as fat. As a result, alcohol consumption increases fat storage and can adversely affect your percentage of body fat.

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Sexual Abuse

This is a very serious issue. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, over 50% of reported sexual assaults and 72% of reported rape involved the use of alcohol. The facts are clear, drinking in moderation reduces your risk of sexual assault and rape. Staying in control and not being impaired by alcohol will keep you safer and allow you to also help protect your friends from these horrific tragedies.   

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REGRET

This is a well known fact... Drinking too much can make you say or do stupid stuff.  If your reputation is important to you, it's important to stay in control.  Doing so will eliminate a lot of unneeded drama in your life. 

University of Missouri researchers found that alcohol dulls the brain signal that warns people when they are making a mistake, ultimately reducing self-control.  This often resembles a sense of false courage, which can lead people to do things that are not only dumb, but very dangerous.  From hooking up with that weird guy/girl at the bar, to getting into a car while intoxicated... the range of possible regrets you face is enormous when you drink way beyond your limits.

Nearly every negative consequence from alcohol comes from drinking too much.

The Better Drinking Culture is about drinking better and healthier.  That means understanding how to drink, knowing our limits, and not drinking beyond them.  We don't drink to get drunk. We drink to enhance our experiences with friends in a positive and healthy way.