Is There Really A Difference Between Alcohol Use and Alcohol Abuse?

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Alcohol is a dangerous drug. Despite this, alcohol use is celebrated in our society, and used by humans since the dawn of time. Back then it may have even been critical to many of the milestones of human progress because it prevented millions of deaths from tainted water sources. Without any knowledge of disease, it was easy for thousands of people to die because the restrooms were too close to the drinking wells. However, I think we can all agree we have learned a thing or two about keeping out drinking water fecal free.

Alcohol leads to impairment of both motor function and cognitive ability. As a consequence alcohol use of any kind can ultimately lead to death, not only for the person consuming alcohol but for those unfortunate to be around them. While the effects of alcohol often lead to one night stands and questionable late night text messages, accidents involving alcohol are increasingly likely to result in death. In one recent circumstance, alcohol led to a late night reveler freezing to death in a hotel freezer.

It all began on September 9th, when minor Kenneka Jenkins went to a hotel in Rosemont, Illinois to attend a party with her friends. Unfortunately, she never ended up making it home after this party. In fact, she couldn’t be found at all for quite some time. It took nearly 24 hours before hotel staff found her in an unused freezer in the kitchen. It was a somewhat baffling situation, and it took about a month for authorities to piece together the timeline of the death. Security video footage had been released that showed the girl stumbling through an empty hallway, all the while on the way to her death in the freezer.

Details Surrounding the Night

A toxicology report from the coroner’s office shed more light upon the exact circumstances that caused Kenneka to be so impaired and end up in the situation that she did. First off, her Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was .112, which is definitely over the legal limit to drive, but it is also not ridiculously high. In fact, for many people, this level of BAC would not cause near the level of impairment as was shown in the video. The symptoms and behavior displayed by Kenneka would be more indicative of a BAC of around . 20. The other substance discovered in her system is called topiramate, which is used to prevent epileptic seizures. Her family said that she did not have a prescription for this medication, but it is also a substance that is unlikely to be taken for recreational purposes. Whatever the case may be, the combination of topiramate and alcohol can have disastrous effects. In fact, these two substances are said to be synergistic, which means that they can exacerbate the impairing effects of both drugs. This combination can bring about effects like impaired memory, impaired concentration, confusion, lessened coordination, and impaired judgement.

The story is shocking and incredibly sad for this young woman’s family. Had she been found alive the story could almost be comedic. What the story does do is illustrate how alcohol can affect decision making. It’s a bit of a leap to suggest that the woman took drugs as a result of alcohol use. However, alcohol does lower inhibitions and contribute to a sense of invincibility. So it’s not a particular surprise that the coroner listed the cause of death as hypothermia complicated by both alcohol and drug use.

Often there are these ideas that there is a responsible way to use alcohol, that only some individuals will develop problems, or that there is some health benefit to alcohol use. This young woman’s death was not the result of a longstanding alcohol problem or even extreme intoxication. It was the result of the way alcohol would effect any one of us.


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