The effects of overconsumption of alcohol on the human body and relationships.
College is quite the party scene. I'm not sure weekdays even exist in college because the weekends simply never end. Be it blackout Mondays, tequila Tuesdays, wine Wednesdays, mixers on Thursdays, tailgates on Fridays, and massive parties on Saturdays - Sunday is pretty much the only socially accepted day for rest (unless you get invited to a brunch in Malibu with bottomless mimosas, of course). How college students maintain their impressive GPAs and Equinox buffed out bods - your guess is just as good as mine. (Well, I have a few bets. But let's leave that offline.)
This lifestyle is a deemed a "dream" since your first step onto campus. The fact that USC in specific has so much social life to offer (among its unparalleled education, alumni networking system, movie-esque football team & tailgates, and location in the heart of the bustling city of Los Angeles - ok fine I'm a HUGE fan of my alma mater, shoot me...) makes it one of the most coveted universities in America, and the world. Again, we arrive at the concept of "the quintessential college experience," with USC standing as what I believe to be the prototype.
But let's go back to that social aspect. USC is filled with social over stimulation. That football game starting at 5pm? Tailgates start at 11am, both on campus and on Greek row: your choice is which to attend. That party at Phi Psi tonight starting at 10pm? Don't worry - you have Bacaro happy hour at 6pm, pregamming with your roommates at 8pm, and your pre-party mixer with those lucky Row House boys at 9pm. And don't forget, after the party (which inevitably has a theme that is designed for an uncomfortably minimal amount of clothing) you can hit up the 901 Bar & Grill, a convenient 100 yards away and open until 2am.
Don't wanna party on campus? Good thing you live in LA - because be it Bootsy Bellows, 1Oak, Blind Dragon, or any other overpriced club where a table for the night can cost up to $5,000, you have many options to get yo groove on any day of the week (literally).
Overwhelmed yet? Try doing it for four years straight.
Well, half the student body tries it, and impressively succeeds.
I was not one of them.
My freshman year, I got sick about every 4 weeks. And these weren't just little colds... No, no, no - I was in the big leagues. Be it bronchitis, strep throat, croup, pneumonia, or my seven different sinus infections: if I wasn't throwing back DayQuil, I was coughing up mucus. But how can this happen? Alcohol isn't thaaatttttt bad for you, right?
Well first off, I hate to say it and be THAT girl, but yeah - it really is. And despite what you may think from this blog post, I'm actually pro alcohol. Not your modern day prohibitionist here, ok chill. (Yes, Jesus turned water into wine. He loved a good party! But that conversation is for another time.) Over the years of exploring healthy alcohol consumption, I have come to truly appreciate its powers toward community bonding, improving a meal, creating spaces for vulnerability, etc. So just know that when I read up on the effects of alcohol, I experienced just as much deep heart pain as you will in reading these next few sentences.
In addition to its incredibly high caloric and sugar levels that can lead to excess fat, alcohol has been proven to have a direct link to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, and various forms of cancer including breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). And I'm sure you've heard this crazy one before, but according to a study done by British professor and neuropharmacologist, David Nutt, when all of the social aspects, dangers to society and health of the consumer are considered, alcohol is a more harmful drug than heroin or crack cocaine.
The study concluded alcohol to be the "most harmful drug to society and the fourth most harmful drug to users" (Locke).
Want #anotherone? The famous Grant Study, which followed 268 Harvard undergraduate men over the course of 75 years, sought to find once and for all the main causes for a human being's long term happiness. Among its findings, the study reported as one of its main conclusions that "'Alcoholism is a disorder of great destructive power.' Alcoholism was the main cause of divorce between the Grant Study men and their wives; it was strongly correlated with neurosis and depression (which tended to follow alcohol abuse, rather than precede it); and—together with associated cigarette smoking—it was the single greatest contributor to their early morbidity and death" (Stossel).
To summarize? Alcohol is literally a disease-causing, fat producing, relationship ruining, bad tasting (except for wine let's be honest), addictive poison that we are putting into our bodies without as much as a second thought.
(Hate to admit that even after all that, a glass of pinot still sounds really good right now...)
And I know what you're thinking: I don't have to worry about that, I'm in my 20's!
If you will, I want to get serious for a hot second. I think it's important to acknowledge that most college students think these stats are far from describing our own actions. When's the last time you heard of an 18 year old alcoholic? It's rare that we even hear those words in the same sentence! But now let me ask: how often do we hear about our friend (or ourselves) who blacks out 4 out of the 7 days of the week? Or a friend that refuses to DD because they claim they won't have a good time going out sober? Living in Los Angeles and on Greek row for years, I heard these daily. Let that sink in for a second. These stats are real, and even though we are young and able bodied, these stats can easily reflect our futures unless we learn to take control over our alcohol consumption. It only takes 21 days to form a habit... Be it beneficial or detrimental to your body. It's best we start forming healthy habits now before our long term habits become the next longitudinal study.
Okay back to lighthearted Jess - sorry woof that was not fun. So from those studies, alcohol is pretty much like the worst thing ever for you. Buuuuummmmmers. Honestly, it was nothing that really stopped me from getting my srat stardom on my freshman year. But the icing on the cake that took me out for the count? Alcohol can ruin your immune system.
Not only does alcohol inhibit your body's natural anti-inflammatory response to any sort of "invader" or bad bacteria, but it reduces the amount of T cells in your body which are responsible for fighting off any foreign bacteria or viruses. For anyone with even a slightly sensitive body, autoimmune disease, or even simple environmental allergies from which your body is already fighting chronic inflammation, alcohol is like that perfect touch of salt from Salt Bae that will literally put your body on overdrive and cause chronic sickness.
Let's take a break from the brutal truths of alcohol for a second and turn back to the good ole', blurry mems on frat row...
Ahh yes. The good times on frat row, where from 3-5pm, frats compete in who can have the loudest music and the most shirtless dudes outside playing beer die. Come 10pm, the girls shuffle out of their pristine, well kept mansions and walk down in groups of three or four to their fav frat. And of course, there's a slight yet undeniable scent of sewage coming from the street gutters (which claim to be swept twice a week but the stench #FightsOn). Walking into the first frat party of the night and the familiar, oddly comforting smell of Natty Lite fills your nostrils. Someone hands you a handle and you do what any well conditioned frat or srat star would do: take a pull.
Unsurprisingly, there's something completely unsanitary about handle pulling. If you're not familiar with the phrase, it means to grab a handle of liquor (roughly 60 oz.) and take a pull (aka chug the crap out of it until your throat burns and eyes start to water... Or until your cheering crowd counts you up to 15 seconds, 20 if you're an absolute frat machine). But the best part about handling pulling? It gets passed from one brave soul to the next, which means any germs, bacteria or God knows what else, gets passed along right with it. Your 15 seconds in srat glory just turned into getting your friend's strep throat. Worth it? Depends on your loyalty to the chapter.
(I'm just kidding chiilllllll chill chill chill.)
The fact of the matter is that bacterial infections like strep, pneumonia and bronchitis can be treated with antibiotics, which means you'll be feeling peachy perfect after only 48 hours of horse-sized pill popping. Forty-eight hours later and you've got a green light for getting back on the grind of Tuesday-Saturday studying and partying, my friend. Okay - maybe Wednesday - Saturday if we're gonna "take it easy" this week. If I had to bet money, I'd bet you that at least 7/10 freshmen in your 10am lecture or at a frat party are fighting some sort of sickness, be it the common cold, on day 3 of their 5 day Z-pak to treat bronchitis, or anything in between.
Put the toxicity of alcohol, its stress on our livers and inflammatory nature, + alcohol's wages of war on our immune systems + a bunch of bacteria from 100 other, immune compromised, sexually active 18-23 year olds = you'll get sick in no time, my friends. I can promise you that.
So what brought about general, chronic sickness for me? Well, that's not exactly a simple answer. Any human living in a polluted city will begin to feel the effects over time. Anyone who lives in a moldy apartment will develop some allergies, and anyone with upstairs neighbors who party until 2am Thursday-Saturday night will become fatigued. But the cherry on top? Taking part in unhealthy drinking habits. My gut, while slowly being deteriorated by antibiotics after every diagnosis, was screaming bloody murder at me.
In the end, it was up to me to finally listen and begin healing my stomach (and heart).
For your journey...
What does this mean for you? Well, a few things.
1) Listen to your body. If you feel sick, I'm challenging you: don't go out. It has been scientifically proven that alcohol has an adverse effect on your immune system and depletes your body of necessary fluids to fight off illness. Instead of a shot of Tito's, try taking a shot of pressed ginger & turmeric from your local Whole Foods. It will work towards lowering your inflammation and boosting your immunity - and I promise, it burns just as bad.
2) Pour your drink instead of chugging it from the bottle. So you'll miss some brownie points from your fellow frat starts, but better be a little lame than get Sally's strep throat right next to you... Right?
3) Watch your cup. If you put your drink down, get a new one. It's absolutely worth it to waste the drink you just poured 10 minutes ago if it means avoiding a potential drug slip.
4) Try limiting your alcohol consumption. I know we all think we're young and so the words "cancer" and "hypertension" don't mean too much to us right now, but believe it or not, the habits we form now are extremely important for long term health. Maybe if you're a 4 drinks kinda gal - try 2. If you're a 6 drinks kinda dude - try 3... :) Or maybe go out one or two less days of the week. Or maybe try going out and not drinking... It's actually still really fun, especially with a sober buddy. Take shots of water and make fun of yourself. Lighten up a bit. I do it often and to be candid, I have more fun when I do!
The Christian perspective...
When Jesus came down to earth as God in human flesh and died for our sins, He broke the chasm that once lied between man and God. Followers of the God of Abraham used to have to sacrifice animals to be forgiven of their sins. Only once a year on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, could only the high priest enter the holy tabernacle, the place in which God dwelt, to be in the presence of God. But when Jesus came, He not only paid that debt for our sins, but He broke that chasm between us and God and the Holy Spirit of God now lives in YOU!
Consider what my boy Paul says in his letter to the church of Corinth when he writes, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
If we have the God of the universe dwelling inside our bodies, shall we not treat our bodies with the utmost respect and be extremely conscious of what we consume and surround ourselves with?
Furthermore, if you know you struggle with balance in alcohol (in other words, you're not just a one drink kinda gal or two drinks kinda guy) - I implore you: do not drink. If every time you go out drinking you end up drunk - it is time to take some time away from alcohol consumption. Invite your community group into this decision. Ask for accountability. This may be the start to getting help and tasting freedom.
Love you guys.
“Alcohol and Public Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Jan. 2018, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm.
“Chug Whiskey GIF - AnimalHouse College Whiskey - Discover & Share GIFs.” Tenor, Tenor, 5 Jan. 2016, tenor.com/view/animal-house-college-whiskey-drink-needed-that-gif-4890893.
Locke, Tim. “Experts: Alcohol More Harmful Than Crack or Heroin.” WebMD, WebMD, 1 Nov. 2010, www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20101101/alcohol-more-harmful-than-crack-or-heroin#1.
Nutt, David. “Drug Harms in the UK: a Multicriteria Decision Analysis.” The Lancet, 1 Nov. 2010, www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)61462-6/abstract.
“Scoring Drugs.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 2 Nov. 2010,
Stossel, Scott. “What Makes Us Happy, Revisited.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Feb. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/thanks-mom/309287/.