In the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion regarding alcohol consumption by college students. I want to take this opportunity to share the possible dangers that I see as the Butler County Coroner.  Excessive drinking of alcohol can cause serious short-term and long-term dangers including the risk of death.

Several factors are involved in consuming excessive alcohol. Who: men and women achieve blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) differently; BAC is also affected by your weight and muscle mass. What: different types of alcohol may affect you differently and alcohol combined with other drugs is particularly dangerous. How: the circumstances you’re drinking in and rate of consumption can increase the risk of bad outcomes. The faster you drink, the higher your BAC becomes. If you drink too fast, your BAC can spike dangerously high and can continue rising even after you stop drinking.

Alcohol negatively affects your mental and physical functions. Alcohol impairs your judgment, leading to potentially poor decision making. You lose coordination and your reflexes slow down. Your breathing, heartbeat and gag reflex might not work properly. You can stop breathing, you may choke and your heart rhythm might become irregular. If your BAC is high enough, these physical functions can stop working, you may pass out, have a seizure or even go into a coma. If you don’t get medical attention, you could die. And do you really think it’s good for your brain to blackout?  Alcohol can cause brain damage by interrupting neuron function and impairing your memory not just for the time you were drinking but long-term as well.

Drinking alcohol increases your risk of injury and accidents. Falls are common among people consuming alcohol – off the curb, down the stairs or off a balcony. Drugs and alcohol are often factors in fatal motor vehicle crashes involving drivers, passengers and pedestrians.  If you vomit from excessive alcohol, you can choke or get vomit in your lungs (yuck!). With judgment and physical movement impaired by alcohol, you may find yourself exposed to unsafe environments leading to hypothermia or drowning. Any of these situations can result in death.

While binge drinking alcohol can lead to a sudden and unexpected death, chronic alcohol use can lead to a slow and miserable death. Virtually every organ system is affected by alcohol. Over the years alcohol can cause irreversible damage to your brain, liver and heart resulting in memory loss, physical illnesses, hospitalization and eventually death.

As a community, we all can help prevent alcohol-related injuries and deaths. It starts with personal responsibility for each person to know and understand the impact of alcohol before you drink. Once you start drinking your judgment is impaired and your life is at risk. If you or a friend experience adverse effects of acute alcohol use, call 911 and get help immediately. If you or a friend uses alcohol chronically, seek medical and psychological help to prevent further risk. Let’s work together to eliminate alcohol-related visits to the Coroner’s Office.