Don’t get us wrong –there’s nothing wrong with having fun with friends – in fact; it’s wonderful to have a healthy social life. Keyword: healthy.
August 22, 2013
College is an exciting time, filled with new experiences and learning opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Many students look forward to the first time away from the gaze of the parental eye, ready to explore a bright new world. Some are returning back to school; ready to reunite with friends they haven’t seen for months.
It’s college – and welcome week, for many, is a rite of passage that includes partying until the sun comes up.
Welcome week isn’t exclusive to a certain age or year in college. It’s just an example of a time in college where all party animals are, well, welcome.
If you’re not familiar with the term, welcome week is the time when students have arrived for the semester but courses have not started yet. As they saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s playground.
Some students, however, discover that the new world can be far darker than they realized. It’s when healthy social activities and parties turn a dark corner that students and parents, alike, need to be aware of – and it happens a lot more than people talk about.
While everyone makes mistakes in their youth, there are some mistakes that cannot be undone. Here’s the part where we scare you – and this should scare you.
Research reported to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA) by a College Task Force, indicated college students’ (ages 18-24 years) drinking behaviors contribute to the following*:
Injury or Death
• 1,825 student deaths per year
• 599,000 injuries per year
• 696,000 annual assaults by another student who has been drinking
• 3,360,000 students drive under the influence of alcohol
Unsafe Sex or Sexual Assault
Health Issues and/or Addiction
• More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem
• 31 percent of college students met criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse
(*above statistics are estimates from CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov’s web site)
According to CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov, “the consequences of excessive and underage drinking affect virtually all college campuses, college communities, and college students, whether they choose to drink or not.”
This is an important factoid to recognize. Even though you (or, if you’re a parent, your student) may make smarter decisions, it doesn’t prevent them from being affected by situations involved with college drinking all together.
Often times, students are put in uncomfortable situations and it’s helpful to know how to respond accordingly. CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov makes the following suggestions in dealing with alcohol-related situations:
• Learn How to Say No
Just because others are drinking, doesn’t mean you need to do so. It’s perfectly acceptable to politely decline a drink that’s given to you.
If you feel uncomfortable just saying no, give a reason. For example, “Thanks, but I feel a lot better when I don’t drink and I have a lot going on tomorrow,” is a perfectly acceptable and polite response.
Obviously, it’s helpful to avoid people that give you a hard time about not drinking – they kind of sound like jerks, anyway.
• Stay Active
It’s funny how much more time and money people have when they don’t drink. What else do you like to do? Whatever it is – do it! When you don’t drink you have the time, feel healthy and funds you would have wasted on drinks.
• Get Support
Your friends, assuming they are good ones, will support you in your decisions. Let them know you’d rather not drink alcohol and they’ll likely help you avoid situations that might make you uncomfortable.
• Watch Out for Temptations
It’s a given to avoid those who “peer pressure” you to drink. If you cannot handle the temptation without becoming involved, stay away.
But, let’s acknowledge the fact that it’s not grade school anymore. You don’t need to do anything to be one of the “cool” kids – in fact, if you feel you can go to parties and control yourself then, by all means, go!
You don’t need to become a hermit just because you’re making different choices than others around you and there are plenty of students who choose not to drink and stay socially active.
Just remember that you may end up babysitting those that aren’t making such smart decisions.
If anyone has had too much to drink, seek medical help immediately. There are significant health ramifications from binge drinking and/or alcohol poisoning that goes untreated (including death). It’s always better to remain cautious and safe than sorry for a lack of action.
If you or someone you know begins to feel that your drinking habits are becoming out of control, seek help immediately.
Your college health center will be able to provide you with resources or you can seek free counseling and advice via helplines, like the Free Addiction Helpline.
What are some ways you avoid the temptation of drinking in college?