The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) National Advisory Council defined binge drinking as pattern of alcohol drinking which makes the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram-percent or above. For males this would correspond to 5 drinks or more and for females, 4 drinks or more in just 2 hours. Dowdall and Wechsler in 2002 cited a lot of factors which account for college drinking.
This might be attributed to the type of institution that the student is in – data might vary from public to private universities and from gender exclusive to coeducational colleges. However, it can also be noted from some researches that students who enter colleges are more prone to heavy drinking as compared to those who did not go to college. Another factor would be the location of the educational institution, from which several issues arise like alcohol’s availability, its price and marketing and other locally known alcohol-related traditions. Colleges have a rich history of tradition in which alcohol is the focal point of the event. This might also be influenced by the alumni, who have powerful voice with such activities. Another important factor to consider is the measurement of an objective data indicated by the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels, which is used for evaluation of the accuracy of self-reports made by students. Geography might also play an important role because according to a study conducted by Fullbright-Anderson, institutions which are more than one mile away from liquor shops have a low rate of heavy episodic drinking as opposed to those outlets within a mile. Children of Alcoholics have a high probability of becoming alcoholic themselves and are more at risk to have alcohol-related problems in the future. (Baer 41)
In some institutions with predominantly black students, students have significantly lower rate of high-risk drinking as compared to predominantly white institutions. Pascarella and Terenzeni in 1991 noted that women enrolled in gender-specific campuses there have less alcohol-related problems than for women who are in coeducational campuses.
Negative consequences of alcohol misuse are academic impairment, damage to self such as blackouts/memory loss, personal injuries, physical illnesses, unintended and unprotected sexual activity, suicide, sexual coercion and acquaintance rape victimization, impaired driving, legal repercussions, impaired athletic performance, damage to other people, property damage and vandalism, fights and interpersonal violence and institutional costs and damage. (Perkins 92)
However, it seems that the most influential factor governing college drinking would be demographic variables combined with individual’s behavior and personal values. Peer pressure and one’s decision not to drink alcohol are directly related with environmental variables rather than one’s personal beliefs. Shore found out that college life seems to be separated or insulated from the “real world”. (Presley 87).
One particular environmental reason which contributes to alcohol misuse would be the presence of a Greek system and in some cases athletics. Students who are affiliated with the Greek system have increased rates of heavy episodic drinking and negative consequences. Moreover, fraternity and sorority leaders oftentimes set the trend for drinking norms for the members. Wechsler’s research (1995) found out that 60% of fraternity members were already engaged in binge drinking during high school and 75% of the residents who weren’t heavy drinkers during high school became heavy episodic drinkers in college. Even students involved in athletics are more prone to binge drinking. (Presley 85) The campus environment and peer interaction seem to wield a great impact on the students’ drinking behaviour especially to students who live near the campus, away from parental supervision. Environmental aspect interacts with students’ unique experiences. In a study conducted by Clapp et. Al in 2000 (p. 289) he clearly stated “The antecedents of alcohol consumption are to be found in the interaction between the individual and his environment … the consumption of alcoholic beverages is situationally specific, rather than trans-situational property of specific individuals.” This means that it is also important to take into account the most recent events which led to the last heavy episodic drinking. Some of the most common situations noted were being with friends, on dates, interacting at parties, and socializing. It was observed that during the last high-risk drinking, presence of neighbours, close friends and colleagues increased alcohol consumption. Personal beliefs such as religion and family values of an individual are usually outweighed by environmental aspect combined with peer interaction, which contributes to one’s decisions of drinking or not drinking alcohol.
With this in mind, the student can be perceived as the prime stakeholder central to massive policies being implemented against alcoholism. The students, themselves should be accountable in drinking responsibly. Policies when implemented based on students’ own set of values can bring about a successful and long-term change. Self-monitoring and self-evaluation of students’ behaviour are effective when it complies with community’s standards of behaviour. (Wechsler 45) According to Gulland, this is in reference to particular organizations. Students can exercise their freedom while maintaining their accountability, especially during campus events. Likewise, activities where alcohol is the focal point should be replaced with worthwhile activities where they could enjoy without the presence of alcohol. This could eventually set up a good example for other students to follow. Having students who have had tragic experiences with alcohol and letting them share these with their fellow students could be an eye-opener as well. This would help convey feelings of oneness that alcohol abuse goes beyond personal issues and involves the entire campus community.
Other measure which can be taken is engaging the faculty, to make the students preoccupied with academic activities from Mondays through Fridays. This will ensure that students will have enough time on their hands to study instead of spending it otherwise. The faculty can also modify their lectures injecting alcohol topics to help educate students on the hazards which this substance brings. (Murphy 3) They could also try to have a meaningful relationship with the students, to go beyond classroom. This will open the gates of communication, making it easier to reach out to students especially those who badly need assistance. In addition, alcohol counter-advertising by the media can also help reduce alcohol misuse because this helps lower consumption as college students are typically the target of this aggressive alcohol advertising. (Saffer 174)
Comprehensive community programs could also help in managing alcohol abuse because this involves many people. This includes the parents, youth workers, healthcare providers, local government officials, law enforcers, school representatives and some concerned citizens. These community programs have various objectives such as reducing alcohol-impaired driving, decreasing related traffic-deaths, preventing substance abuse to adolescents, reducing alcohol outlets and its availability to underage students, raising general awareness about alcohol-related traumas. (Hingson 233) These strategies are effective to college settings because young adults might be more receptive in injecting change early on their lives as opposed to habituated adults. Likewise, theoretical when combined with environmental and policy changes within campus hold a high degree of success because the administration has authority over this and could possibly have an effect to students’ health behaviour modification.
Factors involved in college-aged drinking are multifactorial, and such requires the involvement of the entire campus. However, without students’ cooperation with the community no change can occur. Students should likewise be involved with alcohol program efforts. Drinking issues are a major concern for most colleges and should actively involve students in implementing alcohol-related policies. Not all students have homogenous views on alcohol issues – even if some do have misguided perception on the college norms of drinking. Rick Culliton from the University of Vermont went as far as saying “Part of our approach is to create an environment where students don’t have to be tolerant of abusive drinking… It’s empowerment for those who are acting responsibly.”
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