Homer Simpson once toasted, “To alcohol! The cause of … and solution to … all of life’s problems.” He may not be the brightest animation character around, yet his simple but elegant toast shines. Indeed, the intake of alcohol offers both solutions and problems to our lives. While we would love to go on about how alcohol is such a great beverage, we will play the devil’s advocate and focus on alcohol’s negative effects. As you can see, this month’s culture section covers drinking extensively, and we found it necessary to provide our readers with a modest warning on the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. Everyone already knows that drinking too much is never good, right?
When the metabolism of the liver cannot keep up with the ingestion of alcohol (surprisingly only one shot of alcohol can be digested every hour and a half), the substance begins to enter the bloodstream. This is when alcohol begins to perform its magic. Small doses start giving the person euphoria, or simply the feeling of being “up”. Then as more and more alcohol is consumed, the person feels dehydrated and nauseated. Also, coordination between muscles becomes an increasingly difficult task. Such uncoordinated movement is called ataxia, the reason drunk KAIST students stagger on their way to their dorms. From a social point of view, they begin to do all sorts of things they probably would not have done if they were sober; some just start to fall asleep, while others start to yell, hit, spit, swear, et cetera. Drinking heavily also leads to poor judgment. Intoxicated people start to become overconfident or careless, and ruin relationships by saying things they definitely should not say. To make matters worse, they start taking needless risks, which could lead to horrendous mistakes, injuries, or even deaths to themselves or others. This is why one should never drive under the influence as drink driving is a potent recipe for disaster, not only to the driver but also to other innocent bystanders on the streets.
Another dangerous effect of excessive alcohol intake is acute alcohol poisoning; the body simply cannot hold the alcohol within itself. When poisoned, the body may be subject to severe confusion, stupor, or unconsciousness and in extreme cases, death due to seizures, respiratory failure, or asphyxiating on one’s own vomit. Earlier this year, a freshman at KAIST was sent to the emergency room during freshman orientation after drinking too much alcohol; witnesses say that she shook uncontrollably on the floor of her dorm room. The uncomfortable truth is that in Korea, several students die every year during their college orientation session due to alcohol, after studying so hard to get there.
But that’s not all. There are serious long-term effects for those who drink alcohol like it’s a carbonated drink. Addiction to alcohol, or alcoholism, is a serious worldwide problem, as it destroys lives and families. Husbands or wives who drink and cause domestic problems, or the homeless who drink alcohol bought with the very money earned by begging are tragic aftermaths of alcoholism. Also, it is easy to forget that alcohol is a depressant drug, meaning that it inhibits the central nervous system. Since it is a depressant and a drug, drinking too much can lead to depression and withdrawal symptoms may occur during abstinence, possibly leading to relapse. Another important thing to remember is that alcohol is fatal to fetuses, so pregnant women should make sure to ingest as less alcohol as possible, or risk fetal alcohol syndrome. And need we remind you that alcohol is a well-established carcinogen, designated as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, alongside asbestos and radioactive isotopes. Studies show that frequent alcohol intake leads to a higher possibility of oral cancer, esophagus, and/or liver. Even if alcohol doesn’t induce cancer, it has the potential to damage just about every single organ in our body.
Alcohol is an inevitable part of our lives, appearing in just about every social and personal occasion there is and will continue to do so. Although it is definitely important to enjoy the moment, keep in mind that alcohol is something to enjoy and fear at the same time.