College Kids Drink Too Much

College students drink to have fun and forget about their problems with no regard to future consequences. Drinking can be used for negative reasons including depression or failing an exam. However, it is also used for positive reasons such as celebrating an occasion or more commonly for “liquid courage.” This term represents the ability to converse with others and the freedom to do anything without being judged while intoxicated. Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has categorized binge drinking as a major (or national) public health problem. In fact, the federal government has implemented a reduction program with “Healthy People 2010” to lower the current percentage of binge drinkers from 39 percent to 20 percent. Methods similar to the latter need to be implemented to target specific groups and allow the reduction of binge drinking rates.

What separates casual drinking from binge drinking? According to the College Alcohol Study, binge drinking is defined as males who consume five or more drinks and females consuming four or more drinks in a two-week period. This “5/4 measure” allows a threshold to portray the start of problems in a college student’s life. Although the 5/4 measure is said to be a threshold, five drinks is enough for a person to be incoherent and belligerent, thus causing physical damage or jeopardizing the safety of others.

Recently, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives created a code of principles, which consisted of creating an alcohol-free environment, promoting alcohol-free recreation and limiting advertisement of alcoholic beverages on campuses. Although this approach primarily focused on de-emphasizing alcohol use, it does not directly reach out toward stopping student actions. Instead, decreasing binge drinking should focus on college groups that contribute to heavy drinking such as students who binge at an early age or fraternity and sorority students.

For students who start at an early age, promoting better lifestyles allows them to grasp the importance of education over habitual drinking. Early bingers need to be targeted since they drink in fewer occasions, but drink more per occasion. This target group should focus on alcohol prevention by reducing the availability of alcohol. Since alcohol consumption is socially acceptable, individuals tend to abuse its consumption which leads to binge drinking.

More importantly, prevention of alcohol abuse through the monitoring of fraternities and sororities will dramatically decrease binging rates. According to The New York Times, living in a fraternity or sorority is the strongest indication of over-consumption with 88 percent of fraternity residents and 80 percent of sorority residents being binge drinkers. Resident advisors who oversee the actions of college residents should play a greater role in monitoring student actions. Moreover, a stricter policy would allow reduction in consumption that will positively correlate with a reduction in binge drinkers. Police enforcement should also play a greater role as a means to monitoring drinking. By setting up checkpoints near college entrances, students will be forced to take safer actions and avoid driving under the influence, which all contribute to reducing binge drinking.

Media outlets such as the Internet and television provide the best means of relaying a message toward college students. These sources can portray the negativity of binging, revealing its consequences and attempting to abstain students from drinking. This will allow individuals to think more responsibly before drinking. Commercials should also be created for individuals to overcome peer pressure and handle the social environment of drinking.

While targeting on-campus drinking is important, a more effective method seems to be intervention from friends and family. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 53.9 percent of all people aged 12 to 20 have engaged in underage drinking. This reveals the start of a habitual problem that these students might encounter in the future. Parents should take responsibility to control their teen’s actions. Parents can prevent early binging through discipline and building a trusting relationship with their child.

These proposed ideas will benefit the community and promote a safer environment for students. Effective methods to reduce alcohol consumption can be implemented through the media by portraying the dangers of alcohol. Also, home intervention such as parent discipline can also be a great resource. With authorities enforcing stricter policies focused on undergraduate housings and fraternities, it is possible to limit the availability of alcohol. Implementing one or more of these methods will surely reduce binging rates and its secondhand effects.

Junele Del Rosario is a fourth-year public health major. She can be reached at jdelrosa@uci.edu.