Effects of the Bottle

What can happen when I drink too much?

Drinking does not go without consequences—some often tragic and fatal.  This year alone, numerous instances of binge drinking on college campuses across the nation have led to students dying.  Excess drinking is certainly dangerous, but even moderate drinking can have long-term negative health consequences.  Drinking can lead to life-long problems with relationships, work, and quality of life. 
Here are some consequences of drinking to consider closely:


  • About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall (Engs et al., 1996; Presley et al., 1996a, 1996b; Wechsler et al., 2002).
  • Alcohol impairs abstract thinking—the ability to put ideas together to solve problems and form rational thought is impaired by drinking and can last from days to weeks, depending on the amount and frequency of drinking.
  • Alcohol impairs memory, reducing one’s ability to remember information that he or she learned prior to drinking.  In addition, one’s attention span is shorter for periods up to forty-eight hours after drinking.      
  • Alcohol impairs REM sleep, preventing quality sleep and causing a person to feel tired after he or she wakes.  Inadequate rest makes it more difficult to concentrate, focus, study and retain information.


  • Research  overwhelmingly suggests that alcohol use and athleticism do not go hand in hand.
  • Dehydration.  Alcohol is a powerful diuretic that can cause severe electrolyte imbalances and dehydration —which can take up to a week to fully recover from.  While dehydrated, an athlete is at greater risk for
    musculoskeletal injuries including: cramps, muscle pulls, and muscle strains.  Dehydration also leads to decreased appetite and muscle wasting—where you can lose muscle mass, resulting in a decrease in strength and performance. 
  • Lowers Testosterone.  Alcohol, when consumed in amounts typical with binge drinkers, can dramatically decrease serum testosterone levels, which is most commonly seen in college athletes.  Decreases in testosterone are associated with decreases in aggression, lean muscle mass, muscle recovery and overall athletic performance.  In males, this can also cause testicular shrinkage, breast enlargement, and decreased sperm development.  In females, this may cause an increase in the production of estradial, (a form of estrogen) which may increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Impairs Reaction Time and Mental Acuity.  Alcohol can impair reaction time and mental acuity for up to several days after consumption, which is a severe consequence to the athlete.  Performance will be reduced and
    thus, injury risk increased.  Athletes will have a decrease in hand-eye coordination and judgment will be impaired.  Alcohol can also cause nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness for days after consumption.
  • Increases Fat Storage.  Alcohol consumption effects body composition by increasing one’s percent of body fat.  Powerful energy pathways (like glycolysis) are impaired and large amounts of lactic acid are produced, this results in decreased energy, decreased muscle recovery, and increased muscle soreness.


  • Did you know that in 2002, an estimated 17,419 people died in alcohol–related traffic crashes—an average of one every 30 minutes. (NHTSA, 2003).  AND in 2001, 2.1 million students between the ages of 18 and 24 drove under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2002).
  • It doesn’t take as much alcohol as you think to impair your driving skills. 
  • Steering a car while, reaction time, alertness, coordination—all of these can be impaired by BACs—even as low as 0.02.
  • After consuming two drinks in one hour, a 180 pound male will have a BAC of .05 and will be susceptible to diminished driving ability. 
  • The more alcohol you consume, the more impaired your driving skills will be. 
  • Although the legal BAC limit for adults who drive after drinking is 0.08 in most states (including Nebraska), impairment of driving skills begins at much lower levels. 


  • Many students don’t realize that excessive drinking in college leads to the development of alcoholism. 
  • Some students enter college already having experience drinking heavily in high school or even earlier and continuing their excessive drinking only increases their risk for developing a problem with alcohol.
  • Other students come to college not having much experience with drinking alcohol, but become immersed in the culture of binge drinking and excessive use and start along a path toward addiction and/or alcoholism
  • Other factors that can affect the development of alcohol addiction include family history of the disease or other addiction problems as well as use of or addiction to other drugs (i.e. marijuana, methamphetamines, prescription drugs, etc.)


  • Alcohol interacts negatively with more than 150 medications.  Combined with antihistamines (for a cold or allergy) alcohol increases the drowsiness that the medication alone can cause, making driving or operating machinery even more hazardous.
  • Combined with large doses of the painkiller acetaminophen, alcohol can cause serious liver damage.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before drinking any amount of alcohol if you are taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications. 
  • The NIAAA provides an extensive listing of harmful interactions.


  • Drinking can effect more than just our bodies: it increases the potential for problems in relationships with friends, family, coworkers, significant others, and even strangers.  Alcohol can:
    • lead to arguments with or estrangement from your spouse and other family members
    • cause strained relationships with coworkers
    • cause absence from or lateness to work/class with increasing frequency
    • lead to loss of employment due to decreased productivity; and 
    • lead to committing or being the victim of violence.
Source: www.jointogether.org/as/learnMore/effects/0,2956,86%255F1,00.html


  • Brain Damage – Students who drink have a significant reduction in learning and memory and are most susceptible to damaging two key brain areas that are growing and developing.
  • The Hippocampus handles many types of memory and learning and suffers  from the worst alcohol-related brain damage in young Americans.  Research shows significantly smaller hippocampi for those who had been drinking more and for longer.
  • The prefrontal area (behind the forehead)—sometimes referred to as the “CEO of the Brain” undergoes the most developmental change in adolescence and into early adulthood.  Heavy drinking during these years can cause severe changes to this area—which plays an important role in forming adult personality and behavior. (Source)
  • Liver Disease – More than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease.   Because the liver’s primary purpose is to process nutrients and filter the blood, it suffers the most life-threatening damage from alcohol.  Too much alcohol use can cause a slowing of liver function, a swelling of
    liver, cirrhosis or cancer.
  • Heart Disease – Although  some believe moderate drinking can have beneficial effects on the heart, heavy drinking can lead to: 
    • high blood pressure
    • enlarged heart – cannot be repaired
    • coronary heart disease – narrowed arteries lead to heart attack and death
    • irregular heartbeat, which can lead to heart attack and death: decreased bloodflow to the arms and legs
    • stroke – blocked bloodflow to the brain or bleeding in the brain; stroke is a major killer
  • Pancreatis – the pancreas has a role in digesting food as it regulates blood sugar levels and releases insulin accordingly; long-term drinking can cause inflammation of the pancreas.  This condition—known as pancreatic—is associated with severe abdominal pain and weight loss and can be fatal.
  • Cancer – heavy alcohol use increases the risk of developing the following cancers: esophagus, throat, mouth, voice box, colon or rectum; women who drink excessively have a great chance for breast cancer.

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