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Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among youth. The immediate effects of drinking too much include making unsafe choices/decisions, slurred speech, motor impairment, confusion, memory and concentration problems, coma and/or breathing problems. Drinking a lot over a long period of time or drinking too much on a single occasion can also affect the body in other ways, including, but not limited to: 

  • Interference with the brain’s communication pathways and altering the how the brain looks and works;
  • Damage to the heart - causing problems such as cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), stroke and/or high blood pressure 
  • Damage to the liver - causing problems such as steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and/or cirrhosis
  • Damage to the pancreas - alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxins that can lead to pancreatitis (a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevent proper digestion)
  • Cancer - alcohol consumption can lead to certain cancers such as head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and/or colorectal cancer
  • Weaken the immune system - drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease and it can slow your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk
  • Alcohol poisoning - consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time

College Drinking

Drinking at college has become a ritual for students and it is often seen as a major part of the college experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can worsen the problem. Harmful and underage college drinking negatively impacts the intellectual and social lives of students. The consequences of drinking can affect everyone— regardless of age or drinking status. Harmful and underage college drinking can result in:

  • death from alcohol-related unintentional injuries;
  • assault by another student who has been drinking;
  • alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape;
  • academic consequences such as missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers & receiving lower grades overall;
  • Development of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) - problem drinking that has become severe; characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake and a negative emotional state when not using alcohol;
  • Aggressive behavior or violent behavior;
  • Use of other drugs;
  • Binge drinking;
  • Suicide attempts;
  • Health problems;
  • Unsafe sex;
  • Injuries;
  • Drunk driving;
  • Vandalism;
  • Property damage; 
  • Involvement with the police; and/or 
  • Delayed brain development

**Information on this page is adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA).