College life and drinking
College life has always been congenial for drinking. Facts of bring drinking: alcohol is the most popular on-campus drug of choice and gender-based binge drinking profiles predict males binge drinking more than females (young men are 15-20 percentage points higher than young women as binge drinkers). In the early 19th century, fraternities bragged about the “manliness” of members who could hold their drink. The student paper at Duke had an article in 1924 that stated a school dance needed alcohol to be a success. However, until the 1960s, academic success was still a priority. An “A” was an “A” and it took work to get it. So how are college drinking stats measuring up today?
The environment is different today
According to statistics, study requirements are less than half of what they were in 1961. Back then, 66% of students report studying twenty hours or more each week; today, that figure is twenty percent. Meanwhile, grades improve. Between 1961 and 2008, the amount of A’s given as college grades went from fifteen percent to forty-three percent.
Clearly, less work is now required to achieve top scores—or even to maintain student status and not flunk out. Consequently, that means more free time to drink—and to recover from a binge. Furthermore, students today report that networking and social skills are more useful than good grades—ignoring the benefit of the knowledge and skills required to get those grades.
What is the definition of “binge drinking”?
Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting (contingent on body weight and a few other factors, including tolerance). Over forty percent of college students admit to binge drinking. The consequences of this aspect of the college experience are dire.
Binge drinking and health problems
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, national surveys indicate that binge drinking is associated with a variety of health problems, including:
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Unintentional injuries (fights, auto accidents, falls, high-risk and impulsive behavior, etc.)
- Unintended pregnancy
- Alcohol poisoning
- High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems
- Neurological damage
Binge drinking among college students is a national issue
Over 1800 students die each year from accidental alcohol-related injuries. Nearly 700,000 students are assaulted by another student under the influence of alcohol. Nearly 100,000 students are victims of sexual assault involving alcohol consumption by one or both parties. And more than 150,000 students report health issues related to alcohol — slightly over one percent of students report suicide attempts within the past year because of alcohol or drug use. Furthermore, there is a correlation between early binge drinking and future alcohol dependency.
Preventing harms from binge drinking
Still, there are college binge drinking prevention ideas currently in practice on campuses across the U.S. Among preventive measures that are being considered, evidence-based conclusions point to the effectiveness of:
- Increasing the cost of alcohol by means of taxation
- Limiting the number of alcohol retailers in a defined geographical area
- Allocating liability to retailers for harm caused in alcohol-related incidents when they sell to minors or intoxicated buyers
- Limiting access to alcohol in terms of days and hours shops can sell it
- Offering counseling to those at risk for alcohol abuse
- Promoting public awareness on the dangers of binge drinking
Peer pressure is a main component in binge drinking — at least in the beginning. Then, the initial few drinks lead to impaired judgment and an inability to assess when a limit for safe drinking has been approached or crossed. For those with the metabolic predisposition for alcoholism, it’s more than simply impaired judgment; it’s a craving that develops after consuming even a small amount of alcohol. If somehow the glamour of drinking could be demystified and exposed as a dangerous myth, the “college experience” could be restored to its original status as part of American life.