With National Drug Facts Week taking place from October 31 to November 6, 2011, it seems timely to discuss a serious and important topic: college binge drinking.
Part of being a college student—or the parent of a college student—is learning to live an educated, informed life. Ideally, one's time to learn and grow doesn't stop when a person steps outside of the classroom. So when it comes to understanding binge drinking, it's important to know the facts.
[Learn 7 ways to ensure a healthy college experience.]
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is "a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAV) to .08 grams percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks for men, or for our more drinks for women, in about 2 hours."
The NIAAA also reports that "approximately two of every five college students of all ages—more than 40 percent—have reported engaging in binge drinking at least once during the past 2 weeks."
You may think your drinking behavior doesn't count as binge drinking. You may believe your student doesn't drink while away at school. Or you may think that this kind of drinking is so normal on your campus, when you were in college, or when you are among your friends that it's not really anything to be worried about.
Unfortunately, underage drinking, binge drinking, and general irresponsible drinking can lead to some pretty unfortunate consequences. The NIAAA lists a wide range of negative outcomes experienced as a result of excessive drinking, including an estimated 1,700 deaths of college students—not young adults, but college students in particular—between the ages of 18 and 24 from "alcohol-related unintentional injuries."
Additionally, each year, "more than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking;" "more than 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex as a result of their drinking each year;" and approximately "25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking."
[What should college students who need academic help do?]
That extra beer, one last cosmo, or wine glass top-off can clearly have larger implications than many students realize. Being a college student or the parent of one involves making smart decisions about one's life and future.
Do students drink in college? Of course. Is it your choice to drink when and how you want to? Within some limits, yes. Do your drinking choices and behaviors have to cross the line into unhealthy actions that can lead to long-term, irreversible consequences? No.
One simple but often understated aspect of college drinking is that college students always have a choice about how much alcohol to consume and when to consume it. Next time you're at a campus party, think twice about taking that extra drink. What do you have to lose by not having just one more? But what do you have to lose if you do?
[Read about a possible connection between binge drinking and memory loss.]
If you're a student who wants more information about how to change your own drinking or even the culture of drinking on your campus, there are undoubtedly quite a few resources available. Check with your campus health center, student activities office, or even the dean of students office.
You've probably seen programming in your residence hall or on the campus in general about alcohol awareness; see how you can get more involved in future events. Lastly, if you're seriously concerned about your own health situation, reach out to someone in the campus health or counseling center to schedule a screening and heart-to-heart conversation.
If you're a parent and have concerns about your student's drinking patterns or just want more information, there are some great resources available for you, too. College Drinking—Changing the Culture (part of NIAAA) has specific information for parents of college students.
The U.S. Department of Education also has a Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention that can help a parent understand the larger issues affecting unhealthy college drinking and the initiatives hoping to combat this trend. Lastly, the famed Mothers Against Drunk Driving always has resources and support available online.
Feel free to share the lessons you've learned about wise and unwise college drinking behaviors with other readers in the comments below.