Don’t keep fueling flawed genetics

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

Illustration by Keith Pfeiffer.

You either are already on the path to becoming what you fear or at least have the ability to become it. That’s why I gave up drinking a couple months ago. I am the breeding ground for alcoholism and maybe you are too.

Perhaps you’ve never considered it because the amount you drink is just a sign of your age. Perhaps you control your consumption and figure that you’ll give it up when you no longer have the excuse of being young and dumb. That’s just a maybe, though. It’s necessary for us to take an in-depth view into our own genetics and behaviors in order to keep from becoming a part of the statistics.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2013 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 died from alcohol-related incidents. Across the nation 599,000 students were unintentionally injured due to alcohol, 696,000 were assaulted and 97,000 were sexually assaulted or date raped in the presence of alcohol.

More than 3 million students drove drunk. That would amount to about twice the population of the Richmond Metro Area getting in the car intoxicated.

 In addition, between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of college students tried to commit suicide in 2013 while using alcohol or drugs, 31 percent of students were classified as being alcohol-dependent, 5 percent of students had some sort of interaction with police or campus security, and 25 percent had academic problems due to drinking.

Of course none of that information matters — as the NIAAA states, providing the information on those statistics is at most ineffective.

So telling you the following will have no effect on you: I was hit by a drunk driver while walking home drunk last December. My parents received a phone call at 4 a.m. on a Saturday from a hospital notifying them that their son was in intensive care and that a chaplin would be present to speak to them upon their arrival. I woke up and thought of my great aunt who was killed with her family in the car after being hit by a speeding drunk. I was drunk and walking against the green light but he was drunk and speeding, therefore I maintained the thought that this was a one-time thing. It wasn’t that I shouldn’t drink alcohol but maybe I shouldn’t drink ‘that’ alcohol.

I was instructed not to drink for at least a year and I still self-medicated alone in my apartment three months afterward, trying to get my mind off of the problems I developed from alcohol in the first place.

No matter how much I attempt to be an advocate of at least drinking responsibly or not drinking at all if there’s a history of alcoholism in your family, students will still be killed by alcohol-related incidents. Sexual assault and date rape will still exist in the presence of alcohol abuse, and future alcoholism will still blossom at parties in the Fan.

It’s the way you fit into the culture and me informing someone that I quit drinking will result in me being wrongfully informed that just one drink won’t hurt me. It will happen in the same way that certain people who were at the party that night agreed that I was just as much at fault as the driver who hit me.

 Short motivational interventions, a bigger presence of liquor laws which would limit retail sales of alcohol, making students liable for drinking by having alcohol-free dorms and Friday and Saturday classes are all ways that the NIAAA suggests are the effective measures to curb the numbers from above. Even those are seemingly ineffective. No liquor law will change.

If a student really wants to then they will still drink heavily on Friday night if they’ve got class Saturday morning the same way they’d drink heavily on a Sunday night if they’ve got class Monday morning. If you give a motivational intervention it will last for a weekend and when students are back in class during the week they’ll completely forget about it and drink to take the nerves off. Perhaps that’s based off of personal experience though. All of the numbers written above were not the problem, they were the consequence.

There are two problems when looking at alcohol use: our genes and our environment. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that the single most reliable indicator of risk for future alcohol and drug problems is family history. Before you were born it was already written on the coding of your DNA that this is who you’re meant to be.

You were meant to be an addict. The blame isn’t meant to be placed on those who came before you. It’s not even meant for the culture that we live in. I can’t blame my alcoholic grandfather for my flawed genetics the same way I can’t blame the person who handed me the cognac on the night that I ended up hospitalized.

Gasoline is flammable but it’s only dangerous in the presence of a flame. I’ll only end up an alcoholic if I continue providing myself with the fuel. Maybe you’re in the same boat. I could promote campus prohibition, try to change the outlook of all students on alcohol but that’d be hypocritical and my efforts would lead people to believe I’d be suited best in a room with padded walls and a straitjacket.

The only solution is self-control. If you feel as if you have a problem with alcohol and you are unable to change it, then contact the Wellness Resource Center’s Assistant Director for Substance Abuse Prevention at (804) 828-2086.

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