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Excessive Drinking and the College Experience Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Pedus, Australia Aug 12, 2003
Culture , Health , Substance Abuse   Opinions
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Many years ago, being a college student was a thing of pride, as an undergraduate was believed to represent an avalanche of courage, a leader in the making and a candidate for personal and professional success. For many people, the perception of going to college was taking the first step into discovering and rediscovering critically important survival strategies and life skills. Going to college was and still remains an avenue for knowledge acquisition, a medium through which one can learn lifelong skills.

However, human beings are unique and sometimes unpredictable social animals. In spite of our vast similarities as members of the same specie, we tend to explore paths that suit and satisfy our individual curiosity and desire. For many students, going to college is not just an avenue for making a living; it is a pathway to making a life. However, for others, college education is a matter of personal definition and social inclination. The desire to acquire college education is a product of clear-cut vision; sometimes a product of parental guidance and in some cases a product of personal will and courage. Life itself is a matter of focus, choice and priority. It is about having a vision, defining your mission and avoiding an illusion.

One very conspicuous illusion on college campuses across America is excessive drinking among students, leading to alcoholism, other social vices and diminished priority and focus on academics. Here at Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) Georgia, United States of America where I belong, students celebrate coming-of-legal-age ritual where alcohol and alcohol related concoctions always have a field day. Bars also help make such occasions unique and memorable for the celebrants, by sometimes offering free drinks/or liberal discounts. Birthday binge (binge would be defined later) also represents what some students embrace and experience at colleges. Surveys indicate that up to 85 percent of all college students imbibe and nearly half drink heavily. More than five decades ago (1949), when the first thorough study of college drinking was undertaken, undergraduates drank no more than others of their age and college life was not attributed to excessive use of alcohol. Today, the picture has been altered and looks quite different and one would argue that there has been an exponential increase in the use of alcohol among college students.

Undergraduates have the tendency to drink more because college officials do not see themselves as reformers in this context. Again, many students drink in high school, sometimes underage. The product of all these are campus environments and culture where students find solace in drinking, and getting drunk is a pleasurable experience. A 1997 study by U.S News found that while some college presidents try to highlight the evils of students’ alcohol abuse, many loose sight of the reality of explosive alcoholism on their campuses. The U.S News survey follow-up report suggest that schools that allow drinking on campus are up to three times more likely to experience high numbers of binge drinkers. Similar study has also been carried out at Harvard University and the revelation is that excessive drinking has become a social epidemic on campuses across America.

Very regrettably, many college students who have embraced excessive drinking as a way of life don’t just binge on alcohol, many swill stronger forms such as pure grain alcohol (PGA) and concoctions of several alcoholic beverages. In most cases, this opens the door for gateway drugs and ultimately drug abuse. Oftentimes, the posture taken by these drinkers is senseless in itself. Some choice postures include hanging upside down, engulfing through funnels or directly from the oozing keg tap. Unfortunately, innocent, focused and result-oriented students who have come to college with an undivided attention would have to deal with the wooziness, vomiting, passing out and other irresponsible acts that come with the use of too much alcohol by their friends, classmates and roommates. Whether a drinking student achieves a buzz in a local bar, birthday, party or fraternity bash, it might be his or her way of finding happiness, dealing with failures, and personal problems that would still be there after all.

According to social scientists, this phenomenon is called “binge drinking”, defined as five or more drinks for a man at any one time within a two-week period, four or more drinks for a woman. The Harvard study showed that 44 percent of all undergraduates in the United States binge drink- a rate that has been fairly constant for almost 20 years. It is also found that 23 percent of the men and 17 percent of the women were frequent binge drinkers. As one AASU student one’s confessed,” at the end of the semester, one is broke and grades are down the drain”. This is the picture, the reality of life as a college student and alcohol enthusiast. Studies on this critically important issue have revealed that there is a correlation between drinking and grades.

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I was born in Nigeria and was educated in Nigeria, USA and Australia. I am the founder and president of Christina-Mae Recruitment Consortium Australia and the author of the book "When Things Go Wrong: Concepts of Change". I am also the co-founder of Child Aid Survival and Development International (CASDI). As a freelance journalist, I have contributed to a number of professional journals and newspapers, as well as worked in a number of e-journalism projects. I have traveled extensively and currently call Australia and the USA home with extensive involvement in African Human Rights issues.
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