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The true health effects of alcohol and what it means for college students

Vintage Wines in San Diego has a steady stream of local and out-of-state customers for its selection of wines from the Valle de Guadalupe. (John Gastaldo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

By Sydney Bolt

You may have heard that a small amount of alcohol may be healthy, that it can help prevent heart disease or reduce chances of a stroke. However, recent studies have shown that even small amounts can have negative effects. 

According to Alcohol Rehab Guide, 80% of college students participate in drinking of some kind and an estimated 50% of students reported engaging in binge drinking.  These students face health risks due to the amounts they consume. 

Grand Rapids Community College students agree that drinking in college has become a normalized activity. Many students participate in the drinking culture, choosing to ignore the potential health risks of alcohol or simply not caring about what dangers may come. 

Student, Demetrius Walker, 25, of Grand Rapids, said the only health effect he is aware of is the risk of liver damage. Like many others, Walker was aware of the recently debunked research that alcohol could be beneficial for one’s heart. He said most people he knows only choose not to drink for personal or religious reasons, not because of the potential health risks. He also noted that college students tend to neglect safety and responsibility when it comes to drinking. 

“Alcohol is such a cultural thing and people use it when they’re at football games, when they’re at parties,” Walker said. “It is that one thing that, for the most part, people don’t think is going to hurt them or affect them.” 

While there are many students who aren’t making social decisions based on possible health concerns, some students are deterred by the potential problems. 

I don’t drink at all, for the health effects,” said GRCC student Esmeralda Hernandez, 22, of Grand Rapids,  explaining that she lost her grandfather due to the damaging effects of alcohol on his kidneys. “I see (the health effects) because of my grandfather. He did not look like the same man. And the fact that I already have a history of cancer in my life, I do not want to add to that.”  

Hernandez said many college students choose to ignore, or are simply not aware of the health risks. “… Most people just keep drinking,” she said.

According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide on college alcoholism, around 150,000 college students will face some sort of health detriment as a result of alcohol consumption at some point. That could be long term risks of liver damage, kidney damage, heart failure, high blood pressure, or cancer. Short term risks such as alcohol poisoning, accidents, and injuries may also occur. With this in mind, taking a break from the usual weekend drinking may not be such a bad idea. It could potentially decrease your chances of developing a health issue later in life.

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