The first few steps inside Egypt nightclub on Delaware Avenue are, on most Friday nights, a little disorienting.
You pay the cover at the door, then walk past a security guard. Next, you fumble around a corner into the dimly lit club, choking on the stale air and cigarette smoke that clogs the large, crowded main room.
The loud pounding of techno and dance music pulsates through the room, the loud bass thumping throughout your chest cavity, which adds to your difficulty in breathing, caused by the stagnant air.
Every few seconds, bright spotlights pan the main floor of the club blinding those who are unfortunate enough to be looking in the general direction of the dance floor.
Person upon person, some dancing, some just milling about, bump into you (some extremely forcefully), as you try to gather your senses and make your way to the bar.
By the time you reach the bar, which at 9:30 p.m. is already crowded and full of abandoned half empty beer bottles, you almost feel drunk already; effect of the poor ventilation, dim lights, and severe beating you’ve taken.
With a quick glance around at the patrons bellied up to the bar, which has a wet sheen that looks and smells like spilled beer and soda, ashes, and wine coolers, it becomes obvious to most who the majority of these drinkers are.
College students. And they’re drinking a lot of alcohol.
“I got really sick last January. I was mixing Jack Daniel’s shots, cheap beer and Jell-O shots at one of Temple’s frat houses with some of my frat friends. I thought I could keep up with these guys that are six-foot and weigh 200 pounds. I managed to get into the dorms and ended up puking all over my bed and myself. My roommates were freaking out after I passed out on our bathroom floor,” “Suzanne,” 20, JPRA student.
Suzanne asked not to be identified as she is still below the legal drinking age.
“I drink once or twice a week. Usually until I’m drunk,” said fellow Temple student Liza Zappardino, 21 studying education.
Across the country, more and more college students are being lured into the dangers of drinking alcoholic beverages with the promise of cheap liquor and cheaper admission to bars – often free with a valid college identification card, unaware or unconcerned by the possible consequences of their actions.
Temple University students are no exception.
Temple University’s alcohol counseling service, CASA, the Campus Alcohol and Substance Awareness posts flyers all over campus stating less than 75 percent of Temple students do not binge drink. Simple math will tell you more than 25 per cent of Temple students admit to binge drinking.
F. Robert Schiraldi, Coordinator of CASA, said the ads emphasize the number of students who do not binge drink because the University is “very careful about the facts and figures” CASA can use in its programs. Approval from University officials is necessary for all public service announcements issued by CASA.
That number is likely skewed, however, when one considers that the wording of the survey used to obtain this data only asked if students had engaged in “binge drinking at least once during the two weeks prior to completing this CORE survey.”
Schiraldi said that he personally councils many students each week with some type of alcohol related problem, usually personal use or alcohol use of family members.
“A lot of students come in every week! I see as many students as I can jam into a day…”
Many students, especially those considered binge drinkers, are unaware that they even have a drinking problem.
According to the College Alcohol Study, done at 119 colleges and universities nationwide and conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the more alcohol a student drinks, the higher their criteria for “binge” drinking.
The researchers defined binge drinking as at least five alcoholic beverages for men and four for women at least once in a two-week period.
Walt Hunter, 23, geography major, has such a high tolerance to alcohol and other drugs, it takes “three or four Tanguerey and cranberry juices just to deaden the pain” he still feels in his injured shoulder.
Hunter first noticed that his alcohol use was “a problem” about two summers ago, when he and a friend spent more than $200 dollars on drinks. He recalls they split about 60 margaritas, followed by some mixed drinks, all over the course of one day.
The tolerance he developed to alcohol, as well as pain killers such as Percoset and Morphine stemmed from the accident in April 1996, allows him to mix different forms of liquor without any additional effect.
“And because of my tolerance, I can keep ordering drink after drink, and bartenders will serve me because I don’t look drunk,” Hunter said. Law forbids bartenders to continue to serve an obviously drunken patron.
Often times, the actual drinking isn’t the problem. The problem Temple students need to be aware of is the ramifications of their actions while drinking.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s FARS database, a collection of data on fatal car accidents, counts 136 young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 in Pennsylvania dead due to accidents involving alcohol use in 1999.
A statistic Temple students such as Liza Zappardino might want to consider before accepting rides from people they know to be drunk.
Zappardino has been a passenger in a car with a drunk driver on several occasions.
“I trusted their instincts that they weren’t drunk enough not to drive,” she said, although she herself believed that they were, in fact, impaired by the alcohol.
Suzanne, who has also ridden with drunk drivers, didn’t trust their ability to drive. She allowed them to drive because “sometimes it’s better to shut up and get in the car instead of fighting about it for an hour.”
“My two closest friends constantly drive drunk, even when you try to take the keys away from them. They refuse to let anyone drive their cars and would leave you in the middle of the ghetto, if you didn’t get into their cars,” Suzanne said.
Both social drinkers, Zappardino and “Suzanne” never drink alone. They drink with their boyfriends or other friends, most of who are also college students, at clubs, fraternity houses, and parties.
Incidents of violence are also often linked to alcohol use on college campuses.
In 1999, there were 25 on campus and 42 off campus crimes, which involved alcohol use, according to Temple University Campus Police.
Four more such incidents were reported at other Temple campuses.
Alcoholic beverages reduce an individual’s ability to think clearly and rationally. For example, many college students responded in a 1991 survey conducted by the research team of Bradford and Beck that alcohol use was a prime factor in college students’ decision to not wear condoms during sexual intercourse.
That type of risky behavior is magnified, when considering that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as one in five college students is infected with a sexually transmitted disease.
“[One of my regrets] was having sex with a complete stranger. I picked up this guy and slept with him, something that is totally out of my character. It was just a spur of the moment thing, said Suzanne. “Alcohol has that effect, that you can do anything and have no problems until the next morning. I didn’t feel strange about it until this semester when we had a class together. I feel like I can’t hide from him and feel that I have to cover up because of it.”
A possible reason for the alcohol use of college students is their exposure to it prior to their freshman year. Hunter, for example, began drinking when he was only 16, well below the legal age.
In the past seven years, he has been asked to provide identification only once, and that was just a few weeks ago.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that in 1999 3.4 percent of high school seniors use alcohol daily, while 41 percent of 10th graders have been drunk at least once.
This early alcohol use could lead to a larger problem for many young adults once they reach college, where they generally have more freedom to make their own decisions.
Temple does have prevention methods in place in addition to post-incident counseling. Schiraldi points to CASA’s peer educators, information fair and workshops designed to prevent student alcohol use.
Despite these efforts, Schiraldi admits that drinking, especially underage drinking, is a “serious problem” on this and all other college campuses.
However, to data from researchers Penn, Schoen, and Berland found that more college students in Pennsylvania drink than the rest of the nation. According to their study, 83 percent of men and 85 per cent of women enrolled in Pennsylvania’s colleges drink, compared to 73 per cent of men and 77 per cent of women nationally.
The reasons why this is true are unclear, according to their report.
Predictably, those most likely to not consider alcohol use a problem are the students themselves.
Some of the students are justified in that belief, such as Kristal Paschal, 21, JPRA.
“I got drunk once and never again. I pace myself and know what my limit is,” she said. Unlike many student drinkers she has “never done anything I’ve regretted because of drinking.”
Zappardino said the main reason she drinks is to get her mind off things and “to feel mellow,” while “Suzanne” finds alcohol more of a stress reliever now, though she started drinking as a result of peer pressure.
Not surprisingly, drinking was found to be a larger problem at non-commuter schools than those were the majority of students live off campus.
The Harvard study reports, of their sample group, 32 percent of binge drinkers were from commuter schools. That figure rises to 44 percent at non-commuter schools.
Commuter schools were defined as those with less than 90 percent of students living on campus.
Temple qualifies as a commuter school by their criteria.
Commuter versus non-commuter schools was the most differing pair of opposing factors the study found to have on binge drinking.