“Are you drinking tonight?”
“Let’s get wasted.”
“I was so drunk I don’t remember anything from last night.”
As a college student, these are the conversations I’m surrounded by. Many students are far more concerned about their nighttime binge drinking plans than the big project that’s due next week. I saw far too many of my peers bent over a toilet throwing up, or even worse put into an ambulance because alcohol was to blame. They consider drinking a rite of passage, a way to make friends, and a way to have fun.
For all these reasons, underage drinking is often an overlooked problem. However, alcohol is the most widely misused substance among American youth according to SAMSHA. The discussion we need to have is not “do you need alcohol to have fun” (the answer, very obviously no), instead we should be discussing the dangers these habits possess and the problem that binge drinking is creating.
The truth is, many students come to college with established drinking habits, and college only exacerbates the issue. According to a national survey, almost 60% of college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month, and 2 out of 3 engaged in binge drinking behavior. Even worse? More than 1,800 college students between the ages of 18-24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, student on student assault is dramatically increased when alcohol is involved and so is sexual assault – 97,000 students reported alcohol-related assault or rape.
Personally, I am fearful of the drinking environment. I don’t understand the mentality to it. The thought of losing control and not having inhibitions is frightening. Yet, with the fear comes the pressure to ‘fit in’ to not be ‘an outsider.’ I suddenly felt bad for staying in and studying on a Saturday night. I realize that I was not the first nor would I be the last college student to feel this way.
More kids heading to college need to know the facts and how drinking not only effects their college years but the life beyond that. It is crucial that it becomes part of the conversation. Thankfully, there are initiatives seeking to address this issue. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has been continuing the fight to end binge drinking by beginning what they call a College Alcohol Intervention Matrix (CollegeAIM) to help schools address harmful and underage student drinking. With interventions such as these, there can one day be an environment where all students can all be educated on the harmful effects of the risky behavior that is binge drinking.