Binge drinking alcohol is often considered to be an integral part of the college experience. Binge drinking is defined as having four drinks in a sitting for women and five drinks for men. Studies show that about 80 percent of college students drink and about 40 percent of college students report binge drinking within the past two weeks, compared to about 17 percent of the general population who report binge drinking four times per month.
The consequences of binge drinking on college campuses are pretty serious. More than 1800 college students die every year from binge drinking or alcohol-related accidents, including car accidents. Another 600,000 students are injured every year because of alcohol. There are nearly 700,000 assaults and nearly 100,000 sexual assaults every year related to alcohol. Binge drinking hurts grades and it may lead to developing alcohol use disorder. For these reasons and more, colleges are looking for ways to reduce binge drinking among their students. Here are some ways that may be effective.
Although many college students drink, few understand the risks. There is some evidence that suggests colleges can moderate student drinking by making alcohol education mandatory. This might take several different forms, such as a class during new student orientation or a required online class that students can take whenever it’s convenient. It might include some of the startling statistics mentioned above as well the health risks of binge drinking.
Most people, especially college students, aren’t aware, for example, that alcohol increases your risk for certain cancers, especially breast cancer. Students may also be surprised to learn just how slowly alcohol is processed by the liver. It takes an average of an hour for the liver to process the alcohol in a pint of beer. These classes should not be intended to scare students off drinking, but rather give them accurate information so they can make better decisions.
Although binge drinking is extremely common on college campuses, many students imagine it is even more common than it actually is. In certain circles, it may be easy for students to get the idea that nearly everyone binge drinks. Younger people are often influenced by social pressure and what they believe is normal. So if they believe everyone in college binge drinks on the weekends, they are more likely to binge drink as well. In colleges where this distorted perception is common, giving students a more accurate picture of binge drinking on campus may help reduce drinking.
If students believe that, say, 90 percent of students binge drink, but the real number is closer to 50 percent, making this fact known to students can significantly alter their expectations and behavior. There are a number of ways to do this, such as including it in the mandatory alcohol education or a marketing campaign that includes public service announcements, perhaps over email, or posters around campus.
Friday Morning Classes
Students often have a lot of flexibility in designing their class schedules. They often prefer to design their schedules so they don’t have classes on Fridays, or at least not on Friday mornings. As a result, many students’ weekends begin on Thursday night. This essentially makes the weekend 50 percent longer and increases their exposure to binge drinking. Some colleges have tried to keep the weekend the normal length by requiring classes on Friday mornings. If you have to be in class on Friday morning, you are less likely to binge drink on Thursday night.
To be honest, expecting college students not to drink at all is unrealistic. Many colleges aim instead for harm reduction. While alcohol certainly can cause damage on its own, it is more often the accidents, fights, and rapes that cause the worst problems for students. Harm reduction policies can aim to reduce both the intensity of drinking and the problematic behaviors associated with it. For example, colleges may offer incentives for designated drivers or extend campus transportation services to reduce drunk driving. Colleges may also consider letting students who are of legal drinking age host parties on campus so students won’t have to drive and administrators can exercise some oversight.
Better Support Services
While many students binge drink mainly because their friends do it, others drink to deal with stress or emotional pain. College can be incredibly stressful, especially for first-year students. Having better support systems in place can reduce drinking in general and reduce the likelihood that students develop substance use disorders. These services may specifically include access to psychotherapy and counseling, but other forms of support may be helpful too. These might include tutoring for students who struggle academically, easy access to fitness facilities, and special efforts to get students involved in campus organizations so they feel less isolated, especially on large campuses.
Don’t Sell Alcohol at Sporting Events
Of all the strategies on this list, this one may be both the most effective and least popular. Excessive drinking at sporting events is a major cause of fights and accidents, but it’s also extremely popular and makes a lot of money. Nevertheless, not selling alcohol at sporting events would significantly reduce drinking and help create an expectation of moderation on campus.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. At Fort Behavioral Health, we offer a safe and nurturing space to navigate negative emotions and practice coping skills that will support you in your recovery journey. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 844.332.1807.