SHOP - Student Health Outreach & Promotion: Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs
Risks and Realities
Why do people drink?
Short term risks
Mixing alcohol and drugs
What is alcohol poisoning?
What is tolerance?
How much do you spend on alcohol?
How many calories are in a drink?
When is someone too drunk to drive?
Long term risks
Knowing if someone's an alcoholic
Links you can use
UCSC students were asked this question as part of a national college alcohol study in 2007. Among the students who drink, here are the most common responses:
- To have a good time with friends
- To celebrate
- To relax or relieve tension
- Because they like the feeling
Not surprisingly, no one wants to drink because they like throwing up, getting arrested or winding up in the emergency room. What people enjoy about drinking is what happens within the first few drinks. So if you choose to drink, know what you're getting into and know what risks are involved. Think about how many times things happen that you DON'T like and then ask yourself what you can do to make safer choices.
When you're drinking, one of the first things to go is your judgment. So, celebrating or having fun with friends can quickly turn into embarrassing yourself, getting hurt, throwing up or nursing a hangover. These statistics show the very real risks of drinking in college:
- 70% of college students admit to engaging in unplanned sexual activity primarily as a result of drinking or to having sex they wouldn't have had if they had been sober.
- Alcohol is involved in over 90% of all campus rapes.
- Alcohol makes some drinkers violent and over 50% of non-academic discipline cases at UCSC involve alcohol.
- At least 1 out of 5 college students abandons safer sex practices when they're drunk, even if they do protect themselves when they're sober.
- Heavy drinkers consistently have lower grades.
- One night of heavy drinking can impair your ability to think abstractly and grasp difficult concepts for a month.
Alcohol can be dangerous when mixed with other recreational drugs or medications. Below are some of the reactions that might take place after mixing alcohol with different types of drugs:
Using alcohol with GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine, barbiturates, tranquilizers or sleeping pills will multiply the sedative effects of both drugs, which can slow down your central nervous system enough to cause loss of consciousness, a coma or death. Sedatives like GHB and Rohypnol have been used as date rape drugs because of this dangerous combination.
Using alcohol with marijuana can decrease motor control and mental concentration and greatly impair your ability to drive. Because marijuana suppresses the gag reflex, you may not be able to throw up alcohol when your body needs to.
Using alcohol with narcotics such as heroin, codeine or Darvon slows down the central nervous system and can cause your breathing to stop, a coma and even death.
More than 150 medications interact harmfully with alcohol. Alcohol's effects are heightened by medicines that depress the central nervous system, such as sleeping pills, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and some painkillers. In addition, medicines for certain disorders, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, can have harmful interactions with alcohol. Using alcohol with a prescribed drug or an over-the-counter drug may effect your liver's ability to metabolize the medication and can decrease the medication's effectiveness. The combination of drugs can also multiply the effects of the alcohol and the medication and may cause liver damage. Call your pharmacist to ask about using alcohol with any prescribed drug or over-the-counter drugs.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks to the point that their blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches dangerous levels and causes the central nervous system to slow down. Breathing and heart rate become slower and slower, and the person can lose consciousness, slip into a coma and die. If someone is unconscious and begins vomiting, they could choke to death on their own vomit. The severe dehydration of alcohol poisoning can cause seizures or permanent brain damage.
Alcohol poisoning is most likely to happen when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol very quickly. Because the liver can only process roughly 1 drink per hour, a person's BAC can continue to rise for several hours.
Warning signs of alcohol poisoning
- Person cannot be roused (unconscious).
- Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute).
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths).
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, or paleness.
(Adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
If you find a friend that has any of these symptoms, CALL EMS immediately.
Tolerance refers to a reduction in the effects of alcohol (or other drugs) over the course of repeated use. So, someone developing tolerance to alcohol must drink more to feel the same effect that had been achieved with fewer drinks.
Tolerance can be a warning sign for alcoholism. If a person can drink large amounts of alcohol and not feel the effects, you are at risk for becoming dependent on alcohol. Most people will look at the BAC chart and find that they feel the effects that are described at that blood alcohol concentration. If you don't feel those effects until much higher amounts of alcohol, you are developing tolerance.
The body's organs do not develop tolerance. They are damaged by the alcohol no matter how well a person can function. Tolerance does not protect you from lethal amounts of alcohol. Although someone feels that he can "hold his liquor," he is still at risk for alcohol poisoning.
Tolerance is a complex physiological process, and the research literature defines several different types of tolerance, including acute tolerance, environment-dependent tolerance and learned tolerance. For an in-depth discussion, go to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism and search the site for research on tolerance.
A few dollars here, another few there -- have you ever kept track of how much you spend on a night out drinking? Use this Alcohol Cost Calculator http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeStudents/calculator/calculator.aspx
to calculate the amount you've committed to quenching your thirst. It will give you a monthly total and a yearly total. Think about what you could buy with all the money you spent on drinks.
Alcohol supplies calories but few or no nutrients. When you drink alcohol, your body actually metabolizes alcohol as if it were a fat. So, your body will treat those alcohol calories in a can of beer or a shot of vodka like a couple of teaspoons of butter. Click on this link for the Alcohol Calorie Calculator http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeStudents/calculator/alcoholcalc.aspx
to find the serving size and average calorie amount of your favorite drinks. You can then compute your calorie intake.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence the leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds in the U.S. is driving while intoxicated. After drinking many people think they are fine to drive, but it is important to remember that alcohol impairs your judgment. This means that after a few drinks you can't judge whether you are sober enough to drive!
In California, if you are over 21 the legal BAC limit for driving is .08. Even though driving with a BAC of .05 is technically legal, your risk of having an accident increases by 100%. If you are under 21 the BAC limit is .02 -- that's less than 1 drink for women under 250 lbs. or for men under 225 lbs.
DUI penalties in California include fines, license suspension, community service, alcohol education classes and/or treatment.
There is some evidence that moderate drinking (1 to 2 drinks a day) may be good for the cardio-vascular system. However, any positive effects disappear at higher levels of drinking. Chronic or heavy drinkers are more likely to experience:
- Appetite loss, vitamin deficiencies, inflammation of the stomach, vulnerability to infection and skin problems.
- Damage to the liver, pancreas, central nervous system, heart and blood vessels.
- Permanent and irreversible memory loss.
- Development of cirrhosis of the liver and cancers of the lung, throat and mouth.
- Death from heart and liver diseases, pneumonia, acute alcohol poisoning, accidents and suicide.
It is estimated that 300,000 of today's college students will eventually die of alcohol-related causes, such as cirrhosis of the liver, various cancers, heart disease and drunk driving accidents.
An alcoholic lacks control over their drinking and will continue to drink even though they know that it's causing problems in their lives. Alcoholics generally develop psychological dependence first and crave alcohol but don't experience unpleasant physical symptoms. Physical dependence develops with continued heavy use and is characterized by the alcoholic feeling profound anxiety, tremors, sleep disturbances, hallucinations and seizures within hours after they stop drinking.
Many people are not alcoholics but experience problems related to drinking. That is, their drinking patterns frequently cause negative consequences, like fights, blackouts, car accidents or unprotected sex. For either situation, there is help at UCSC and in Santa Cruz.
Facts on Taphttp://www.factsontap.org/
Great graphics and pictures make this site an easy way to get your questions answered. Topics include Alcohol and Your Body, Alcohol and Sex, Dealing with a Friend's Drinking, Children of Alcoholics and Drugs.
A free, anonymous assessment tool that provides individualized feedback on the role alcohol is playing in your life. You can also see how your use compares with other college students. If you would like to talk to someone about your use, you can call SHOP for an appointment (459-3772).
The Blood Alcohol Educatorhttp://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/drunkdriving/calculator.htm
Learn how gender, body weight, food and how fast you drink can affect your blood alcohol concentration. This is an interactive tool that shows you how much alcohol is in different drinks and how your BAC would compare to male and female friends.
College Drinking – Changing the Culturehttp://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/
Click on the section for students to find out about myths and facts, take an interactive tour of the flow of alcohol through the body or learn about alcohol poisoning. You can use the Calorie Counter to learn about the number of calories in different drinks and you can send an eCard to someone who's drinking worries you.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/
NIAAA publishes research on many aspects of alcohol, answers frequently asked questions and provides pamphlets and brochures. The research papers and reports can be downloaded.
Online Drug Screeninghttp://www.drugscreening.org/Session.aspx This confidential and anonymous survey gives you feedback about the likely risks of your alcohol and drug use.
Resources at UCSCEmergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 911.
Student Health Outreach & Promotion (SHOP)831-459-3772
SHOP provides confidential appointments for drug or alcohol concerns. SHOP is located in the Student Health Center, across the street from Colleges 9 & 10. As you walk up the ramp to the Health Center, SHOP is located in the building on your left, next to the Pharmacy.
Student Health Services
Confidential walk-in or appointment health care
Counseling & Psychological Services
CPS staff provides the UCSC community with a wide range of mental health services, including short-term individual and couples counseling, group counseling, crisis assessment and intervention, and referral services.
Resources in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County's Alcohol and Drug Abuse help pages. If you think that you, a family member, or a friend has an alcohol or drug problem, you've come to the right place.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
831-429-7436 HOTLINE (24 hour)
Call for current open meeting schedules. Disabled Accessibility.
P.O. Box 1481
Santa Cruz, CA 95061
Self-help (non-religious) fellowship group for those who cannot control their marijuana use and are experiencing adverse effects in other areas of their life. No fee is charged.