Do you really know your limit?

November 18, 2016 — by Jay Kim, Elizabeth Lee and Amy Tang

SHS alumni talk about drinking culture in high school and college

Editor’s Note: John and Steve are pseudonyms to protect the anonymity of the sources.

John brought the red Solo cup to his quivering lip as he downed another shot. Head cloudy and vision blurry, he had no idea how much alcohol he had been consuming.

A 2016 alumnus, John was attending a party during spring break of his senior year. He drank excessively, and later that night, he began to have difficulty seeing clearly or walking straight.

When he still had a slight headache and stomachache the next day, he knew he had reached his limits — and learned his lesson.

“Since then, I've taken it a lot easier,” John said. “I haven’t gone out too much, and if I do drink, I keep a solid track of how much I've had. I have the presence of mind to cut myself off because I remember that April night and how awful I felt.”

Despite what he endured that night of his senior year, John believes that it helped him figure out his “limit” before attending college, where often parties are rowdier and peer pressure more intense.

Steve, another 2016 grad, said he dealt with the dangers of reckless drinking this year as a freshman.

As he walked into a party, Steve felt the rush and exhilaration of being at his first college party. During his senior year of high school, he had practiced drinking a few shots at a time, testing his limits to prevent any unwanted aftermath.

But 15 shots and four beers later, Steve was rushed to the hospital, unconscious.

Even though Steve presumably “knew his limits,” he still ended up in the hospital due to intoxication. A tube was attached to his stomach in an attempt to suck out the poison he had put into his body.

This is just one instance of a striking fact from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 90 percent of underage drinking is consumed in the form of binge drinking, which can result in serious health consequences like an overworked liver and permanent brain damage.

Moreover, at high school parties, John said that most attendees are  friends, whereas in college parties, there tend to be fewer friends and more strangers and no guarantee that anyone will help in a bad situation.

Although the legal drinking age is 21, many students begin to take part in underage drinking in high school, a couple years before college, in order to know their limit. Nearly 72 percent of students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school, according to Students Against Destructive Decisions, a youth health and safety organization.

Because so many instances of underage drinking result in binge drinking, sophomore Usman Khan believes that even if students claim to know their limits, they should not engage in underage drinking.

“Not only is our alcohol tolerance low, but it is also hard to know how to deal with situations when intoxicated,” Khan said.

Despite knowing the possible consequences of dangerous scenarios, adolescence is a time of heightened risk taking, independence seeking and experimentation, as well as a time to cope with changing feelings, perspectives and environments.

During this period, alcohol can present a special allure to teenagers for many different reasons, whether it is peer pressure, trying to “let loose,” forgetting about school or attempting to find their “limit.”

In some instances like John’s, it was beneficial to recognize his limits before moving away from home, where people could take care of him if something bad ever happened.

“When people say ‘test your limits,’ you usually think about throwing up or blacking out as being the breaking point, but I honestly think you can find your limit without having to put yourself in any danger,” John said.

This strategy doesn’t always work, as in Steve’s case. Steve said he realizes now that he may not have been fully prepared to anticipate all the effects of drinking.

“Based off personal experience, I know how tempting it is to start drinking in high school. It sounds fun, and it might be — until something bad inevitably happens,” Steve said. “My biggest advice I can give is that drinking has negatively impacted me in that I couldn't focus more on school when I needed to and is definitely not worth it.”

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