One of the Boston College community’s favorite activities, besides drinking and partying, is blaming the culture that surrounds it. It’s not uncommon for students to go out and get wasted on the weekend—and then blame “drinking culture” on the weekdays. We struggle between moderation and liberation, superficiality and over-seriousness, limiting ourselves to extremes. There are benefits to drinking culture and dangers to the shaming that surrounds it, and it’s time we talk about these issue more freely.
In my Clinical Psychology class, I learned about coping mechanisms, tools that we use to help deal with negative emotions: exercise, spending time with friends, journaling, etc. What I found most striking about this concept was that these mechanisms aren’t necessarily “good” or “bad”; their greatest values rest on balance and moderation. Exercise, for example, has its share of benefits for the human body, mind, and psyche—but working out seven hours a day can result in an adverse effect. And by nature of this logic, spending time with friends can also be healthy in moderation (though factors such as introversion and extroversion, as well as the nature of the activity, need to be taken into account as well). So what’s wrong with drinking?
Drinking will kill your liver, critics say. We don’t want people in the hospital, others add. I agree. But those are red herrings that focus on extremes, avoiding the subject itself. So my question stands: What’s wrong with partying? And my answer is: nothing.
Drinking is like money: there’s nothing objectively wrong with it. It’s the manner in which drinking is utilized by the individual that renders it healthy or unhealthy—or, as we like to simplify the labels, “good” or “bad.”
Drinking isn’t intrinsically healthy from a biological standpoint, but it definitely has its benefits. Alcohol acts as a depressant, reducing people’s inhibitions, and its consumption often serves as a communal activity. It’s not surprising to me that so much of college centers around drinking, because drinking with others and sharing in the experiences that result from it can create stronger bonds. The key is to make sure those bonds exist outside simply drinking, so that the relationships have substance and drinking is not relied upon for social interaction.
Those who drink regularly and in large amounts are naturally at increased risk for alcohol disorders—just as those who eat ice cream daily and in large amounts are at higher risk for obesity. It’s about how you handle drinking that decides how healthy you are.
Common sense tells us that it’s not a great idea to get blackout drunk and that hangovers are painful, so we should avoid these behaviors by eating properly, hydrating, drinking over a long period of time, keeping an eye on the sugar content of our drinks, and counting drinks.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “low-risk drinking” for men means no more than 4 drinks in a single day, with a total of no more than 14 drinks per week; for women, it’s capped at 3 drinks in a day and 7 total drinks per week. With the increased use of alcohol, the chances of developing or having an alcohol disorder also increase.
So what does this tell us? You can drink with your friends and have a good time—just don’t drink so much that you don’t remember what kind of time you had. And if you’re going to get completely wasted, try not to do it very often and be mindful of the risks that you personally may be taking in the process. Know yourself.
The biggest problem with this “culture” is that we blame the concept, so that we don’t hold ourselves responsible as individuals. It’s not as if by simply drinking that negative events occur; there are multiple variables that collide to create a night of mistakes. More often than not, the primary fault lies within gaps in our community.
Alcohol is a factor—it’s not the direct cause. We can continue to frown at alcohol consumption and blame its “culture” as some alien entity, but we’ll still have freshmen lining up for the mod parties. We need to take a look at ourselves if we find faults with the culture, because we’re the ones who create and further it.