Don’t mix booze and books

It is common knowledge that alcohol is a frequently used substance on college campuses all over the country. Some consider it an integral part of the college experience. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism about 60 percent of college aged students drank alcohol in the past month. While not each instance of consuming alcohol causes negative impacts on those drinking, several studies have shown that the overconsumption of alcohol can have negative effects on academic performances. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that the overconsumption of alcohol plays a role in 51.6 percent of letter grades D or lower. But why is this the case? Most students are not doing homework on Saturday nights after consuming alcohol so how is it possible that alcohol has a role in lowered academic performance? It all comes down to one, not so simple thing, the brain.

Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system (CNS). This means that it slows down the activity of nerve cells. This may surprise some people because alcohol is often associated with activities such as dancing and talkativity. This is because alcohol first inhibits activity in the prefrontal cortex (right behind your forehead). Two things that this area of the brain does are regulate impulsive behaviors and help produce memory. So, when this part of the brain is inhibited by alcohol, a person is more likely to engage in behaviors that they ordinarily would not do, such as dancing. And if enough alcohol has been consumed, they will not be able to create new memories. Blackouts occur when the brain is no longer capable of making new memories because alcohol has inhibited the function of the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus.

According to a study by Walid El Ansari, the alcohol consumption of two participants showed negative associations between motivation and achieved academic performance. They, and other researchers have found that on average, the more alcohol a student regularly consumes, the lower their average GPA. Part of the reason is that alcohol also affects sleep patterns, and if a student is not able to get good sleep, they will not be able to retain information that they study. Alcohol also causes dehydration which can lead to a lack of focus and motivation when trying to study. In short it is important to remember that alcohol has prominent effects on the brain. It can inhibit important processes that are needed to achieve the best levels of academic performance. Be aware of how alcohol is affecting you. When handled with care alcohol does not have to affect your academics.

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