Why College Students Binge Drink and How to Stop Them
Everyone knows that college students drink. It’s a tradition that stands the test of time: study hard and party hard. The problem is that drinking has consequences. The other problem is that college drinking has seen a major upswing in recent years. Our young scholars are drinking more than ever. Women have caught up to men. And all of them are binge drinking. What’s going on here? If you have a child in college, what can you do to prevent him from drinking too much?
College Drinking: The Facts
Binge drinking is the practice of having at least four drinks in a short period of time for women, or five for men. Statistics show that four out of five college students across the country drink. At least half of college students binge drink. Consequences rack up with this kind of drinking and include accidental deaths and injuries, assaults, sexual abuse, health problems, legal problems and academic struggles.
We tend to think of fraternity brothers being the main culprits when it comes to college drinking, but women have caught up on campus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million women binge drink at least three times every month. The problem is particularly noticeable among young women of both high school and college ages.
Why Binge Drink?
The drinking culture in colleges is pretty well entrenched. Many students describe an atmosphere on campus in which not drinking, and more specifically not getting drunk, is considered strange. Weekend drinking on many campuses starts on Wednesday evening and carries on through the weekend. Bars provide specials that make alcohol incredibly cheap, while fraternities and sororities host weekly parties. Parties are preceded by pre-parties and football games are preceded by tailgating that can start as early as 8 in the morning.
Students can provide the answer to the reason for all this excess: relaxation. Young women especially report being so driven to succeed in high school that they never learned what to do with down time. College provides a ready answer in the form of alcohol. If you aren’t studying, in class or taking an exam, you must be drinking. It is the dividing line between work and time off.
Protect Your College Student
Help your child learn to relax in healthy ways, and if you can start in high school, all the better. You want to push your child to succeed, but you also need to teach her healthy ways to use down time. You also have to make sure she has some down time. Having every waking hour of the day scheduled is not a healthy way to live and isn’t sustainable. Make sure that you provide your child with time off and give her ways to use that time. Model it for her by taking time off to relax with exercise, a good book or time with friends and encourage your child to do the same.
If your child is already in college and you are worried about binge drinking, be direct. Talk to him about drinking and the risks and consequences. Talk to him about alternatives to drinking and encourage him to get involved in intramural sports or other activities he finds fun. These should not be activities that are meant to go on a resume one day. They are only for fun. Encourage your child, whatever his or her age, to learn how to have fun in healthy and productive ways. It could just prevent dangerous binge drinking in the future.
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