Our students are going to consume alcohol during their undergraduate careers. In efforts to gain awareness, we must be informed about the trends and myths associated with alcohol. After spending a semester working with students who violated the campus alcohol policy, I have learned some students are uninformed about what to eat prior to drinking and how alcohol will eventually shut down the brain. When motivational interviewing techniques are applied as we discuss alcohol with students, they are more likely to open up rather than feeling judged and not willing to share their experiences or concerns. Here are some trends and important facts to share with students and colleagues:
College students are engaging in a risky behavior called drunkorexia. As Miriam Eisenberg and Caroline Fitz discussed, drunkorexia is the act of reducing caloric food intake prior to consuming alcohol. The research study mentioned that college women are one at-risk group for this phenomenon. The social stigma of being thin and the pressure to get drunk may lead to weight control behaviors, which essentially may turn to drunkorexia. As educators, we should have knowledge about this behavior when working with students. By being aware of drunkorexia and understanding the possible motives for why students engage in this behavior, we are able to begin the conversation about ways to make healthy choices or make the appropriate referral.
2. The brain:
When students are spending a Friday night consuming drink after drink, the alcohol is slowly shutting down parts of the brain (from front to back). A resource provided by Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD) Office explains what occurs to all five parts of the brain as the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) increases. When a BAC reaches .01 – .03, individuals are starting to feel more social and outgoing. As the BAC increases to .03 – .06, the person is starting to become more talkative. As students continue to drink and their BAC rises to .08-.10, motor coordination, reflexes, peripheral vision, and reason are affected. Students may continue to drink because of the perceived notion, “If I stop drinking I will lose my buzz, I won’t be as funny or sociable!” At this point in the early morning, their BAC is at a .2, and the hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for creating memories) is shutting down. We may hear our students saying they remember small pieces of their Friday night, called browning out. This is resulted from the BAC increasing and decreasing throughout the evening.
The conversation about alcohol and the brain could continue, I urge you to discuss this topic with colleagues, students, family, and friends to assist them in making healthy and educated decisions. When training colleagues and educating parents & students about drunkorexia we should ensure we are providing accurate resources to help our students succeed! I encourage you to provide resources in the comments to share with colleagues.
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Podcast With Brian MacDonald on New Student Orientation & Family Programs