A recently conducted survey indicates that campus binge drinking is on the rise. While the number of students who choose to drink has varied over the years, there is an evident increase in the number of drinks a student has on average. Using the definition of binge drinking given by University researchers — five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in one occasion — 50 percent of students who choose to drink on campus have engaged in what researchers have decreed to be excessive alcohol consumption.
The relatively lax definition of binge drinking, which encompasses a large portion of the student population, obscures the danger of excessive drinking. The students on the campus who regularly drink out of alcohol dependence are easily hidden among the vast number of binge drinkers who consume more than five drinks at a time for recreation. Given the social acceptance of drinking and frequent opportunities to engage in alcohol-related activities on campus, students with serious alcohol problems are able to go unnoticed amid the many students who regularly engage in what is technically referred to as binge drinking. There is a serious difference, however, between those students who “binge” on weekends for fun and those who do it multiple times a week because they must. By lumping these two very different groups of people together, the survey misses a critical distinction.
The problem of alcoholism — not mere binge drinking — should be of concern to University researchers, administrators, health officials and students. The dangers of alcohol dependency rival or exceed the threats posed by a wide range of illegal drugs and abused substances. While the University’s mental health service, Counseling and Psychological Services, currently deals with alcohol related problems, the University should consider creating a specific program to tackle alcoholism. CAPS, while adequate, is simply too broadly focused to properly and fully address the serious threat posed by alcohol abuse among students.
Alcohol abuse is a uniquely pervasive problem on a college campus. Unlike other potentially dangerous substances, alcohol is highly advertised and readily available almost anywhere. This accessibility, coupled with the inextricable entwinement of alcohol and college culture, makes drinking not just tempting, but virtually impossible to avoid.
A specific support system, dedicated solely to alcohol-abuse issues, could go a long way in curbing alcoholism among college students. As with any other substance-abuse problem, breaking free of alcohol requires long-term treatment and peer counseling. The danger of relapse — which threatens all recovering alcoholics — is most effectively thwarted by consistent support and follow-up treatment.
As it stands, CAPS refers students to Alcoholics Anonymous and other off-campus services for alcoholism counseling. These organizations often have religious undertones that prove discomforting to students. Because CAPS cannot provide an on-campus, University-run counseling that would likely be more effective when dealing with alcoholism among students, a University initiative that deals specifically with alcoholism could be of great benefit.
While the problem of alcohol abuse on campus may be obfuscated by surveys that imply that every other college student engages in harmful binge drinking, the threat of alcoholism must not be overlooked. Because of its sweeping mandate, CAPS cannot offer the tailored support that recovering alcoholics need. The University must consider creating a special program, dedicated solely to alcohol issues, to lead the fight against alcoholism on campus.