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The Fine Line Between a Casual College Drinker and an Alcoholic

08/13/2014 08:04 am ET | Updated Oct 13, 2014
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Fall semester is quickly approaching and we all know what that means -- time to hunker down and perfect that beer pong curve in less than a month. For those of us who spend quite a bit of time flipping cups and shot gunning brewskis on our well-renowned campuses, it is important to acknowledge one of the most serious and misunderstood nicknames of our crowd: alcoholics.

If you drink on weekends, you hold your head high and raise your mixed drink to the heavens as you proclaim yourself an alcoholic. If you puke your guts out and wake up with a unicorn mask on your head, hell yeah! Alcoholic! Nowadays, girls are taking selfies at the alter, chugging down wine with the photo-bombing priest, with the caption, "LOLZ IM SUCH AN ALCHIE."

The scary part, however, is that these statements may not actually be a joke. We use humor to glamorize alcoholism and to brag that we have booming social lives. You may idolize your roommate because he or she can take shot after shot, shouting, "Gosh, I'm just an alcoholic!" in a sarcastic tone. It's an ongoing joke, but one of the first problems of alcoholism is that you do not realize you actually have a problem.

The first step of action is differentiating between what is crazy and what is unhealthy . I mean, who doesn't love a drunken frat boy with a chiseled bod, running around the house naked spanking people with a spatula? Some nights we have Red Bull. Some nights we are just fired up from a big win against the rival school. We act crazy while we are young.

However, change in behavior is one of the key signals of alcoholism.

We drink alcohol because it's fun. It makes us feel good. If your buddy Todd is punching walls, screaming and ruining the party with his aggressiveness, that is a sign of abnormal drinking habits. If he consistently vomits every time he drinks, that is a sign of that his brain refuses to acknowledge limits. If your best friend is consistently wetting the bed, actually blacking out (that means losing consciousness), or having sexual encounters with people and cannot remember their face or name the next day, then it is time to intervene.

Of course, in some cases, scenarios like throwing up is totally normal. Occasionally, we cave to peer pressure and immediately think, "Bad idea!" But the difference is that an alcoholic never realizes the next drink is a bad idea. They will say, "No, no, I'm fine," because they truly believe they are fine. Alcoholism is a disease -- you cannot control a disease with your mind.

When placed in a stressful moment, most people can "sober up." This is when you almost snap out of it. The natural adrenaline that your body produces feels like it can counteract your drunken state. People with alcoholism, however, lose this sense of control. They're the ones who can't run. They're the ones who laugh when someone is hurt. You may just think your housemate is a drunken asshole, when in reality, he is suffering from a disease that isn't very funny at all.

Obviously college kids will continue to drink. The only way to cure alcoholism is to stop drinking completely, and very few college kids are willing to give that up during their four years of ultimate freedom. So while you may not be able to convince others to slow down, at least think to yourself, "If I walked into a party sober and met myself drunk, would we have a good time?"

Katie writes for Unwritten. A junior at University of Maryland, you can follower her on Twitter @katie_stuller.