College students sometimes make reckless choices. They eat ice cream for breakfast, they ditch class even though they’re paying tuition, they stay up all night studying until their eyeballs ache, and some even go barefoot in the bacteria-laden community showers. But one very risky and potentially lethal activity that many college kids partake in is known as binge drinking.
Binge drinking is when a female has four or more drinks in one sitting and a male has five or more, according to the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study Web site. Despite the many negative outcomes associated with binge drinking, such as serious injuries, vomiting, headaches, unconsciousness, memory loss, sexual assault, unintended pregnancies, STDs, coma or death, students drink to have fun-and to get really drunk. That’s a pretty hefty list of serious consequences. So why do students still drink excessive amounts of alcohol?
Alcohol is a ubiquitous substance on college campuses. It’s no secret that it’s available to all college students, including the under-21 age group.
Young people drink to have a good time, to maintain a certain social status, to lose inhibitions, or to forget about stressful situations.
“It’s not quite peer pressure,” Brett Davis, a doctoral intern working with Temple’s Campus Alcohol and Substance Awareness group (CASA), argued. “It’s more the social ‘norm’ of this age-you’re ‘supposed’ to have fun and drink.” Davis is writing his doctoral dissertation on binge drinking.
Entering college requires adapting to a new, sometimes scary environment and a different social scene. While some students drink for social reasons and they might not necessarily overdo it, others gulp down can after can without too much thought of what might happen while they’re drunk. The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Web site mentioned that “high rates of binge drinking exist among athletes, sports fans, fraternity and sorority members and highly social individuals.”
During freshman and sophomore years, you can find a party almost as easily as you find yourself not doing homework. As a junior or senior, the wild parties still exist, they just relocate to bars. People aged 21 and over usually tend to drink more responsibly as well.
“Students become more mature with alcohol through their college years,” Michael McNeil, coordinator at the Temple Health Empowerment Office (THEO) said.
But drinking moderately and binge drinking are very different. Since alcohol is a depressant, the toxins that enter your body basically tell your brain stem to go to sleep. If your brain stem stops functioning, so does your heart.
Another way binge drinking kills is when an individual drowns in his or her own vomit. The person may be unconsciousness and unaware that his or her body is trying to expel the alcohol and they choke on their vomit. “If you don’t plan not to binge drink, you’re brain will be impaired and won’t tell you to stop,” Davis said.
If you’re a more moderate drinker or you don’t drink at all, you’re not alone. When students around you are swapping stories involving wild parties and beer pong, it’s hard to recognize that not every student drinks excessively.
“It’s a minority of students that drink a lot of alcohol,” McNeil said. He said that during parties, people will often pretend to be drunk or just carry a cup of beer without actually drinking much of it. You can still go to a party, have a good time and not get completely wasted.
According to Temple’s Wellness Initiative for Student Empowerment and Recreation Web site (W.I.S.E.R), 72 percent of Temple students have zero to four drinks when they party. This is right below the binge drinking level. Davis said that at schools where partying is more prevalent, binge drinking among students might be as high as 60 percent.
Binge drinking not only affects the person ingesting the alcohol; it can prove to be dangerous to other people. Highly intoxicated people might harass others. Binge drinking might bring out the belligerence in people and a fistfight could ensue.
“Your judgment center is completely turned off…people can’t think,” Davis said.
Binge drinkers can also be a huge annoyance or embarrassment to sober people. Students trying to study might become very irritated as loud, incoherent drunken students shout through the halls.
Just imagine after a night of heavy drinking, you’re stumbling along Liacouras Walk and you see your crush. You’re feeling confident so you start to flirt with him or her. Much to your horror, you find out the next day you were chatting up one of those stray cats that roam the campus, and everyone saw. Binge drinking leads to all sorts of consequences, some being worse than others.
You don’t need to chug booze to get a little goofy. By using alcohol responsibly, Davis said “you can certainly have a nice, healthy buzz.”
It’s always your choice when it comes to alcohol – just don’t forget to use your brain before you take a sip of that tasty (or nasty) concoction.
“Alcohol is not an evil thing or a bad thing,” McNeil said, but he wants you to remember that “you can have fun in college without being drunk. And you’ll remember it too.”
To get help with binge drinking or any other alcohol-related issue, make an appointment with CASA at (215) 204-7276, located in the lower level of Sullivan Hall. CASA’s goals are to provide non-alcohol related events such as, “Bingo Night” (Nov. 18) and “Karaoke Night” (Oct. 21) – both held in Mitten Hall. Davis said that CASA also strives to “arm students with knowledge” about healthy, responsible drinking.
You can contact the Temple Health Empowerment Office (THEO) in the lower level of Mitten Hall (215) 204-3854. They can also help guide you in your decision-making when it comes to drinking.
Ellen Minsavage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.