Binge-drinking is certainly a costly problem in the United States. One only has to watch the news or read the paper to see the results of mixing alcohol and cars. Underage drinking has fueled the problem. Young drinkers are even less mature than adults are when it comes to handling the effects of alcohol on their system. Yet it seems that adults, those in a position to help teens make responsible alcohol choices, are actually creating the problems.
With a harrowing array of statistics pointing to the ills of binge drinking, popular party labels from the media and adult role models are actually encouraging teens to continue these destructive behaviors. Without the help of community action and state legislation, the problem of binge drinking will only grow. “According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0. 08% or above.
This pattern of drinking usually corresponds to more than 4 drinks on a single occasion for men or more than 3 drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within about 2 hours” (Frequently Asked Questions, 2006). Young people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of binge drinking. The Center for Disease control warns that young drinkers are more prone to vehicle injury or death, alcoholism, sexual risks such as assaults and sexually transmitted disease, and consequences and depression or suicide (Frequently Asked Questions, 2006).
The NIAA continued to explain its definitions in order to further educate society. For the purposes of its definition, a drink is one half ounce of alcohol which is the same as one 12 oz. beer, on 5 oz. glass of wine or one 1. 5 oz. shot of liquor. Some individuals who are taking medications or who have certain medical or psychological circumstances may become intoxicated more quickly that other people.
People with a family history of alcoholism or pregnant women maintain even higher levels of risk (NIAA Council Approves Definition of Binge Drinking, 2004). The problem, college drinkers rarely limit themselves to the defined ounces of alcohol. At college parties, alcohol is mixed in large containers, served in large plastic cups, and consumed at extremely rapid rates. There is no real way to know how much alcohol one is consuming even if anyone cared. In fact, college students spend nearly $5.
5 billion on alcohol each year. This is more they spend on school-related supplies such as textbooks and all other types of beverages (coffee, tea, soda, milk, juice) combined (Location Plays a Role in Drinking Patterns, 2005). In addition, it seems that society has turned a blind eye to the fact that drinking under the age of 21 is illegal. Problems associate with college binge drinking, outside of the effects of the alcohol itself on the body, are devastating to the individual and to society.
Both males and females encounter higher rates of automobile injury and/or fatality as a result of drinking, but for females, the odds are even more dangerous than for males. In a study by Parks and Collins, 2004, approximately ten percent of women have been raped or sexually assaulted during their freshman year of college. In half of these cases, alcohol consumption was involved. In general, college women are more often victimized in any way (sexually, physically and even emotionally) when they are drinking.
“Assault is a violent crime of opportunity, so any environment that provides more opportunity and a reduced risk of being caught increases the likelihood of it happening, for example, on an isolated date, or in a dark parking lot. In addition, our earlier research suggests that public drinking places, such as bars, are risky environments in general for violence. In earlier studies of women who reported drinking in bars regularly (two or more times per month), rates of sexual and nonsexual victimization were substantially higher than in general population studies” (Parks and Collins, 2004)
Sadly, according to the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, nearly forty-four percent of college students do participate in binge drinking. This drinking has accounted for “1,400 deaths, 70,000 sexual assaults and 600,000 assaults on campuses every year “(Chun, 2002). Both men and women who binge drink are playing dangerous games with their own personal safety. With all of these horrible statistics and studies about binge drinking among college students, the causes for these behaviors should be isolated and eliminated.
One such cause is the positive connotations associated with these behaviors. Nobody focuses on this behavior as illegal. Instead, the media focus on Spring Break craziness, “Girls Gone Wild” exposes, and the like give a certain appeal to the activity. Rarely if ever do these shows reveal the harmful consequences of binge drinking. Likewise, the Princeton Review’s longstanding annual Best Colleges guide publishes a “Best Party Schools” ranking which college students look to as a special award rather than a danger signal.
Categories glorify schools that have “Lots of Beer” and “Lack of Time Spent Studying” making school choice more about how much one can drink than how one can better their future (Chun, 2002). Despite that fact that one of the most prestigious schools in the country conduct this research, the survey itself is far from valid. Ambiguous categories and biased samples make it one of the most statistically invalid surveys out there, but the Review doesn’t seem to mind.
It garners publicity and sells, and even though one former editor grappled with morals about publishing the list, he admits that the need for readership won out (Chun, 2002). However, the American Medical Association’s Dr. Richard Yoast has some harsh words for the publication: “The Princeton Review should be ashamed to publish something for students and parents that fuels the false notion that alcohol is central to the college experience and that ignores the consequences of high-risk drinking” (Chun, 2002).
Instead the colleges and their surrounding communities should be setting up programs to reduce binge drinking and its horrible effects. Some schools are taking that challenge. In order for schools to make a difference, everyone must understand that no two schools are the same. Therefore, the school must look at its own needs. Then, it must get involved in combating the drinking problem at the student level, the student-body level and the community level” (The Answer: Change the Culture. The Question: How? 2005).
Research shows that the adult community plays a particularly important role in containing college binge drinking. When the adults set an example of responsible drinking, the kids often follow. Ten states were identified by a study in the American Journal of Public Health as being the very lowest in adult binge drinking. Likewise, ten states were identified as being the highest. In the states in which the adults engaged in the most binge drinking, the percentage of college students who also engaged in binge drinking was fifty-three percent.
In the states in which adults refrained from binge drinking the most, the college binge drinking percentage was only thirty-three percent (Location Plays a Role in Drinking Patterns, 2005). These college students are apparently watching the adults around them and adopting, at least in part, their drinking and binging habits. In addition to the effect that proper role modeling seems to have on drinking among college students, the states that have the lowest number of adult bingers also have some other common characteristics.
These states have laws governing alcohol consumption and sales that make binge drinking a little less accessible. Some laws that address alcohol related activity include reducing the BAC necessary for a designation of DUI or DWI, making it mandatory to register the purchase of kegs, restricting or abolishing bar’s customs of happy hours and the sale of beer in pitchers, prohibiting open containers of alcohol in public places and prohibit the advertising of alcohol in certain places, like billboards (Location Plays a Role in Drinking Patterns, 2005).
These recommendations come from the realization that the community plays a huge role in the drinking culture of the college campuses. According to Timothy S. Naimi, M. D. , a member of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) Alcohol Team and quoted in the referenced article, “Most alcohol purchases and consumption occurs off campus anyway, and so it’s not surprising that laws and policies that seek to limit consumption amongst the general public would also play a role in limiting binge drinking among college students.
Basically, having programs to reduce binge drinking on college campuses in the absence of broad-based community interventions to do likewise may be a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. ” (Location Plays a Role in Drinking Patterns, 2005). Without the support of the community in refusing to sell high volumes of alcohol or to monitor the amount of alcohol it sells in relation to college campuses, the efforts to reduce binge drinking among college students will be destined to fail. Other things that states can do to help fight adolescent binge drinking are to pass laws that make binge drinking harder.
Higher state alcohol taxes, better enforcement of drinking ages, and laws refusing to sell alcohol to people who are visible drunk would go a long way in taking the burden off the college communities and even off the students themselves. (Location Plays a Role in Drinking Patterns, 2005). In addition to the benefits in safety and health, the economic benefit would be huge. Excessive alcohol consumptions currently costs the United States $184 billion dollars a year (Location Plays a Role in Drinking Patterns, 2005).
It is undeniable that college binge drinking hurts everyone – the students, the parents, the campus, the community, the justice system, and the nation itself. Without efforts made by the media and by adults, these staggering figures will only get worse. Adults in the community should step up and make a positive change through community action and legislation in order to curb college binge drinking. Once this precedent is set, college action will follow suit. It is not too late to reverse the devastating trend of college binge drinking. References
The Answer: Change the Culture. The Question: How? (2005) College Drinking: Changing the Culture. Available from http://www. collegedrinkingprevention. gov/ NIAAACollegeMaterials/TaskForce/Intro_02. aspx Retrieved 14 May 2006 Chun, Danny (2002) College Binge Drinking Prevention Program Calls on Princeton Review to Stop Publishing ‘Party Schools’ List. Press Release. August 5. Available from http://www. alcoholpolicymd. com/pd/Press_Releae? final_080202. pdf. Retrieved 14 May 2006 Frequently Asked Questions. (2005). Centers for Disease Control. Available from http://www.
cdc. gov/alcohol/faqs/htm Retrieved 14 May 2006 Location of School Plays Role in Drinking Patterns. (2005) Alcohol Laws Can Reduce College Binge Drinking. About. Com Available from http://alcoholism. about. com/od/campus/ a/blcas050304. htm Retrieved 14 May 2006 NIAA Council Approves Definition of Binge Drinking, (2004). NIAA Newsletter. Washington: Department of Health and Human Services, Winter p. 3 Parks, Kathleen A, and Collins, R. Lorraine. (2004). Alcohol use and victimization among college women. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, April 14