Non-drinkers have mental, physical benefits over drinkers

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Almost every weekend, University of Kansas student Kyle Boge watches students stumble onto his dorm floor in Templin Hall. They are intoxicated, their eyes droopy and their smiles heavy with alcohol. Boge has come to accept the fact that if his friends decide to party, he won’t join them. Instead, he works on homework.

“I would say academics is the number one reason that I don’t venture out with friends,” Boge said. “If I don’t go out, it’s usually because I have a lab report to write or some homework that needs to be done.”

Boge can’t control his friends, but he can control himself. Unlike many KU students, Boge does not participate in alcohol consumption, whether at house parties, social gatherings or sporting events.

Many non-drinkers are stereotyped to behave a certain way, or have an introverted personality. They are categorized as “the quiet ones” at a party who stand alone in the corner. Many people accuse those who don’t drink as boring or uptight. But nondrinkers have clear health benefits over drinkers, experts say.

Boge says that he fights stereotypes attached to nondrinkers by attending small parties. He even went to Mass. Street after the Final Four Championship game.

“Most of the group I was with had consumed some alcohol,” Boge said he was offered alcohol, but didn’t find it hard to decline. “I avoid drinking in these situations by simply saying ‘No, I don’t drink’ or ‘I’m the designated driver’ and moving on.”

The decision to abstain from drinking differs for everyone. Some chalk it up to health, safety reasons or family upbringing. Boge’s decision to avoid alcohol was confirmed after the traumatic death of a friend in a car accident.

“She got in a car being driven by a drunk driver, and she was also inebriated at the time,” Boge said. “Obviously, this made a very large impact on my perception of drinking, and the result is me not drinking today in college.”

Risks of Drinking

What many habitual drinkers don’t know is that those who avoid alcohol have many health benefits. They avoid increasing risks of cancer, high blood pressure, liver damage and illnesses like cardiovascular and heart disease. They also avoid mental side effects like depression and nerve damage, according to www.webmd.com.

One of the biggest problems that many drinkers face is the chance for addiction.

Nurse Practitioner Colleen Blackburn from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center  says that alcohol can become increasingly addictive if the social environment advocates frequent use.

“Alcohol can be very casual, and in that casualty comes dangers,” Blackburn said. “Especially in the college atmosphere. Everyone condones drinking alcohol, and if you don’t drink, it can be weird. College students also don’t worry about long-term health risks like cancer. They all think, ‘oh, it won’t happen to me’ when there’s actually a high risk of medical complications.”

The fact that non-drinkers avoid the chance of ever being addicted to alcohol and avoid unsafe situations should cause drinkers to rethink their assumptions.

Emotional Turmoil

However, non-drinkers aren’t exempt to everything that drinkers go through. The decision to avoid alcohol can put people in uncomfortable situations. Aaron Pope, KU student and Templin Hall resident assistant, says a failed relationship made him really contemplate his decision not to drink.

“Toward the end of my senior year of high school I was dating a girl. We got along really well and I loved everything about her,” Pope said.  After visiting the KU campus, the conversation turned to alcohol. “I brought up the subject of drinking and we started talking, and then it turned into an argument. Months of work building up our relationship were torn apart in hours.”

Pope’s main decision to avoid alcohol comes from a Christian upbringing. His family always warned him of the dangers of alcohol, but he never assumed alcohol would damage him if he avoided it.

“That was the first time in my life that not drinking actually caused me to lose someone really important to me,” Pope admits. He also said it was the first time he was forced to take a stand in defense of his personal non-drinking policy.

Despite his bad past experiences, Pope said the lessons he learned simply reconfirmed his belief in alcohol abstinence.

“Do I regret losing this person? Definitely. Do I regret standing up for my decision? No.”

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