Statistics available on drinking on college campuses reveal that just about half of all college students engage in binge drinking defined as having five drinks in a row for males and four for women in one “episode.”
This activity contributes to approximately 1,700 deaths of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 years. It is also a factor in 600,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or rape. It is estimated that around 70 percent of the on-campus student body drinks. 80 percent of women living in sorority houses and 86 percent of men living in fraternity houses engage in binge drinking.
At its website, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says the tradition of drinking on college campuses has developed into a culture entrenched in every level of college students’ environments. The website notes that customs handed down through generations of college drinkers reinforce students’ expectations that alcohol is a necessary ingredient for social success.
The NIAAA says that these beliefs and the expectations that come with them greatly influence how students view and use alcohol. Keg parties, drunken scenes at sporting events, and weekend get-togethers at bars have become the norm at many colleges. Too often, otherwise sensible young people engage in dangerous drinking activities because of peer pressure (often indirect) that permeates their school environment.
Fortunately, a custom or tradition is not a predisposition. High school students don’t graduate hard-wired to binge drink, so the key is to challenge those longstanding expectations and change the culture of drinking on college campuses. To help do this, we need intervention at three levels: the individual-student, the entire student body, and the community.
Changing a culture is no easy matter. It is well known that interest around prevention efforts is keen and immediate if a student dies as a result of excessive drinking. However, the drive to make deep changes or explore root causes often wanes after a crisis recedes. It takes time and energy to implement an effective, research-based prevention program, and it is essential that administrators obtain external support from the community, alcohol beverage and hospitality industries, foundations, and other organizations.
And there things schools can do now. For example, schools could tailor programs to address their specific alcohol-related problems. Since no two schools are alike, environmental influences as well as individual student characteristics can impact alcohol consumption, therefore effective strategies need to extend beyond the campus itself to encompass the surrounding community.
There is a need for colleges to implement better and more sustained efforts of informing students of the dangers of binge drinking.
While nearly everyone is aware of the dangers of activities like drunk driving, they are not always familiar with the inherent risks of drinking too many drinks too quickly. Presentations to incoming freshmen and students groups can help raise awareness of the detrimental effects of binge drinking.
Many schools have also launched successful marketing campaigns warning of the dangers of binge drinking through posters, public service announcements and newspaper advertisements.
Colleges can also lessen the likelihood their students will participate in binge drinking is by providing alcohol-free activities for students. Many schools plan dances, performances, movie showings and even arts and crafts projects on those nights when traditionally students like to “party.” Making use of student unions and activity centers can keep students on campus and away from places where drinking will occur.
Unfortunately, many colleges and universities send mixed messages about drinking, which makes the binge drinking problem worse. School administrators need to send clearer messages about drinking on and off campus. They need to seriously consider banning alcohol-related advertising on campus or stop selling beer mugs and shot glasses with the school logo on them.
We are sure that there are other ideas out there designed to help change the culture of drinking on college campuses. We are always happy to join the conversation and to work with any task force tasked with this important mission. We welcome your input. We’d love to hear from you.
To learn more about what can be done and what strategies can be implemented in order to affect a change about college drinking, contact NCADD today at 732-254-3344.