As a recent college graduate, I can say with confidence that binge drinking in college is an epidemic. Frat parties, keggers, tailgates, and house parties have become normalized on many college campuses across the nation. And these weekends of excessive drinking are not contained to major drinking holidays like Halloween or St. Patrick's Day either. From Welcome Weekend to Finals Weekend and basically every weekend in between, drinking becomes the norm from Thursday night to Sunday at 2 a.m. for many students.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men - in about 2 hours.
In 2001, the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study found that 44% of the nation's college students drank at "binge" or "heavy binge" levels during the previous year. And on top of that, the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention reported that each year, while intoxicated, approximately 1,700 U.S. college students die and 600,000 are injured.
While researchers do say that most college students eventually "mature out" of heavy drinking, many do not. Many college students will enter into the pressurized "real world" where cultural and environmental forces sustain their abusive patterns.
And this problem is only getting worse. Harvard researchers found from 1993 to 2005, the rate of heavy drinking at colleges rose 16%.
I believe this growth can be attributed to pop culture, social media, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) if you don't participate in weekly shenanigans with your peers. The Princeton Review releases a list of top party schools each year, further normalizing the culture of heavy drinking and partying. In my experience, it doesn't even occur to students that what they're doing could lead to serious consequences or future problems with drinking.
So what is being done to combat this growing problem? Some colleges have implemented alcohol education programs aimed at first-year students, sorority/fraternity members, and athletes. Some states have tougher alcohol control laws, such as mandatory keg registration, happy hour restrictions, and tough DUI laws. Those states have fewer students who binge drink.
But education programs and tougher control laws alone aren't going to get the job done. The entire culture has to change, and while this may take some time, it can be done.
Let us know what you think of this binge drinking epidemic on college campuses, and what you believe can help fix this growing problem. Leave a comment below or Tweet your thoughts to @ADE_Incorp.