A Balanced Approach
When sitting down at a table for a holiday dinner or a special family occasion, freshman Jaime Almeroth will have a glass of wine to celebrate. But she doesn’t make a habit out of it. Almeroth said she considers regular drinking unhealthy as well as expensive.
Based on reports by the media, some might say Almeroth has a point. Often, drinking is portrayed as something negative, from reports about driving under the influence to binge drinking.
However, alcohol is a health benefit for those with heart and blood pressure problems.
Kelli McCormack Brown, a USF professor for the College of Public Health, said there are a variety of studies that show the benefits of alcohol. According to Health and Wellness, a book that McCormack Brown co-wrote with two other professors, consuming a small amount of alcohol about once per day lowers the risk of heart disease.
Brown noted that the benefits of alcohol consumption were first reported in France, where it was named the “French Paradox.”
“Basically, the French Paradox was explained by the fact that French people consumed a lot of red wine, and substances in red wine, called flavonoids, which are antioxidants that produced the heart healthy-effects,” Brown says in her book. “However, several studies have shown that the healthful effects of drinking are not specific to the type of drink.”
Brown goes on to say that an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase is responsible for detoxifying alcohol in the body and, in some cases, people who detoxify slowly will experience benefits of “moderate alcohol consumption in preventing heart attacks.”
In addition to the possible health benefits, there are also benefits found in young people’s social lives. Mark Goldman, a USF psychology professor who studies alcohol and its effects, said drinking becomes a social lubricant, but he warns people should be aware that it can also lead to uncontrollable urges for alcohol.
“As long as the person doesn’t let the drinking get out of hand, (it can sometimes be a positive thing),” Goldman said. “But some don’t stop because they get that positive feel.”
Goldman said some students may go to Ybor City sober and not find it enjoyable, but going with a few drinks in them will improve the way they interact with others.
“The reward value that students receive is what attracts many young people to drink,” Goldman said. “The experience of drinking gives a payoff to interact with other people; it serves as a social purpose in other words.”
Junior Amanda Perez said she thinks people drink for a combination of reasons, especially in college.
“Students get to college and have more freedom and a lot more stress to deal with,” Perez said. “Meeting new people is also another factor because they’re influenced by who they hang out with.”
But drinking for social purposes only can also open the door to addiction, Goldman said.
“When people drink a lot, the body gets used to it and can’t function without it. Alcohol gets built into the fabric of their life,” he said. “When people go to get help, it doesn’t get rid of the impulse they have to drink.”
Goldman who also was a co-chair for a task force organized by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism released a report in April that stated drinking by college students aged 18-24 results in approximately 1,400 deaths and 700,000 sexual assaults each year. The task force, which was comprised of 15 college professors and 17 researchers who have studied psychology and/or alcoholism, was formed to help change the culture of drinking on campus.
Drinking among college students has gotten worse in the past year, and the sole purpose for many college students to drink today is to “get wasted,” Goldman said.
“What some people forget is that alcohol is a poison and to go get wasted and throw up is the body’s way of getting rid of the poison,” he said.
Goldman also said the way people respond to alcohol in general may be affected by their social life or genetics.
“These factors contribute to whether the person gets sick or is happy,” Goldman said. “The kind of people who are more driven to drink are those who are sensation seekers, people who like zinging their nervous system.”
Sophomore Greg Gorski is one student who likes. He drinks because it is fun. However, Gorski said students should know when to stop.
“Knowing your limits is important. Go with friends to drink and listen to them if they tell you to stop,” Gorski said.
Contact Stefanie Green at firstname.lastname@example.org