“Too many college students have just one objective, “to get drunk!”
Campus alcoholism is an epidemic sweeping through colleges and universities at a rapidly growing speed. Even though it is illegal for a minor under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcohol, that law has never stopped those who wished to drink. What used to be a social activity has radically changed to an unsafe pass time that eating away at student’s money, school and health.
A Harvard study showed that in 1993 only 38% of student’s who drank, drank to become drunk. That number jumped to 52% who drink to become drunk, when polled in 1997. Yet alcohol is addictive for only a minority – an estimated 10 percent in the United States – of it users. For most drinkers alcohol is a relatively harmless social beverage. Even though the percent is small, too many students are spending weekends and weeknights drinking the nights away.
Time is not the only commodity that kids are wasting on alcohol. Research shows that college students spend 5.5 billion dollars a year on beer and alcohol. That is over four billion cans a year and 430 million gallons annually. All that alcohol is enough for every college and university in the U.S. to feel an Olympic size swimming pool.
Alcohol is an infinitely confusing substance. In small amounts it is an exhilarating stimulant. In larger amounts it acts as a sedative and as a toxic, or poisonous, agent. When taken in very large amounts over long periods of time, this combination chemical and drug can be damaging to cells, tissues, and organs.
To further the confusion, alcohol is the only drug, which can also be classified as a food. Rich in calories and a potent source of energy for the body, alcohol is used by the cells to perform their complicated functions. Unlike most foods, however, alcohol contains negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals and contributes little or nothing to the cells’ nutritional requirements. As a result, continual heavy drinking inevitably leads to malnutrition.
The challenge to drink to the very limits of one’s endurance has become a celebrated staple of college life. “What has changed is the across-the-board acceptability of intoxication,” says Felix Savino, a psychologist at UW-Madison. “Many college students today see not just drinking but being drunk as their primary way of socializing.”
The reasons for the shift are complex and not fully understood. But researchers surmise that it may have something to do with today’s instant-gratification life-style—and young people tend to take it to the extreme.
In total, it is estimated that America’s 12 million undergraduates drink the equivalent of six million gallons of beer a week.
One simple fact people tend to lose sight of is that alcohol is a poison—often pleasurable, but a toxin nonetheless. And for a person with little experience processing this toxin, it can come as something of a physical shock. It can be extraordinary pleasurable and extraordinary painful.
In general, a bottle of beer has about the same alcohol content as a glass of wine or shot of liquor. And the body can remove only the equivalent of less than one drink hourly from the bloodstream.
It also is assumed by some that drinking to get drunk is a “guy thing,” an activity that, like cigar smoking and watching televised sports, belongs in the realm of male bonding. Statistics, however, show that the number of heavy-drinking young women is significant. A Harvard study found that a hefty 48 percent of college men were drinkers, and women were right behind them at 39 percent. It is very rare for anyone, even a girl to pass up a chance of letting loose and having a little drinking fun.
Due to the increase problems and awareness of campus drinking, college campuses are searching for ways to reduce consumption. Many offer seminars on alcohol during freshman orientation. Over 50 schools provide alcohol-free living environments. At the University of Michigan’s main campus in Ann Arbor, for instance, nearly 30 percent of undergrads living in university housing now choose to live in alcohol-free rooms. Nationwide several fraternities have announced that by the year 2000 their chapter houses will be alcohol-free.
However, researchers wonder if such “zero-tolerance” policies are helpful or if they might actually result in more secret, off-campus drinking. Other academics wonder if dropping the drinking age to 18 would take away the illicit thrill of alcohol and lower the number of kids drinking wildly. Others feel this would just create more drinking-related fatalities.
Whatever it takes, changing student behavior won’t be easy. What you’ve got here are people who think they are having fun. You can’t change their behavior by preaching at them or by telling them they’ll get hurt.
Even attending a Christian college doesn’t eliminate problems with alcohol. No matter where you are, if you are looking to find a party you can usually find it. I have friends who drink, but I chose not to. I made a deal with my parents that if I didn’t take a drink of alcohol until the age of 22, they would give me $2,100 dollars. Statics show that if a child doesn’t smoke or drink before the age of 22, they will be less likely to start as an adult. Sure the money will be nice, but I could easily say I never drank and still do. The whole drinking process just doesn’t appeal to me. I have seen to many friends wreak trust, friendships and morals being under the influence. It’s too much of a risk. I do enjoy being at parties to socialize, but I would much rather be myself sober then a drunken fool.
Another Empty Bottle. http://www.alcoholismhelp.com
Planet Papers. http://www.planetpapers.com
Rubin, S. Reader’s Digest, “Binge Drinking Campus Killer.” September 1998.