What attracts students with enormous potential to drink alcohol until they blackout or experiment with dangerous substances, all for one night of partying? 18- to 22-year-olds who are away from the supervision of their parents for the first time will find binge drinking in college is not only a cultural norm, but that it is also treated casually by most university officials. This brings up the question, are young people getting all the facts about substance abuse and the effects risky behavior can have on their future?
University personnel responsible for the well-being of students aren’t necessarily worried about the bulk of students participating in the binge drinking lifestyle. They are concerned about the students who turn to alcohol and drugs when they should seek counseling, the black-out everyday substance abusers and the violent drunks. The majority of college students who participate in binge drinking and partying maintain decent GPA’s and part time jobs, flying under the radar of requiring any specific counseling or guidance.
While less than 20% of students fall into the category of needing significant help managing their academic and social lifestyle, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports every year an estimated 1,825 college students die from alcohol related unintentional injuries. Another 599,000 are unintentionally injured, and an estimated 696,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. (NIAAA publication of college fact sheet pdf)
Today binge drinking is predominately off campus, where alcohol is the main event. Students use drinking games, liquor and kegs of beer as a vehicle for meeting people, letting off steam from pressure and stress. The 18-22 year age bracket is an important time developmentally and socially, a time in life when one is searching for identity. Students are drawn to excessive drinking partly for the show, the dramatic situations which out of control behavior creates.
The combination of factors at work socially and psychologically promotes students to engaging in high risk behavior which is largely represented in a sensationalized way. It is important that students understand the negative consequences of binge drinking in college; the risk to the potential they have to affect positive change in the world. Changing this trend is not only about the safety and well-being of students attending college, but focusing attention back to the critical foundation of knowledge they have the opportunity to develop.