Drinking has been a part of the college experience for decades and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
The opinion a student forms on alcohol is based on their first experience, something I call the “first-beer theory.” Most of these experiences are with friends. Alcohol is one of those party favors linked to friends and social gatherings. Quickly, this becomes a pattern, and for those who enjoy drinking at functions, alcohol starts to mean “fun.”
The many factors that play into this taste for booze makes this the complicated problem it is. The typical outlets for drinking are social venues — parties and bars. But the underlying issue is in the presence alcohol has. It is cheap, sold at nearly every restaurant and store, and therefore highly accessible and easy fun because the effects of drinking will come so long the student keeps drinking. Alcoholism will come without notice and will gather into a momentous problem: At graduation, students leave with a degree and some with an addiction.
Most students do not mean to cause harm to themselves, but harmful things do happen to them. As students, we do not mean to abuse alcohol, but we certainly don’t buy in to the warnings about it, either.
In college, four out of five students drink alcohol. Half of college students who drink do so through binge drinking, as reported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The NIAAA also reported that about 690,000 assaults and more than 94,000 sexual assaults happen annually from one student to another, from ages 18-24. Twenty-five percent of students report problems in school, like missing classes, receiving poor grades on exams and papers and falling behind their workload. If a student slides into alcoholism, the problem can be mitigated, if it is recognized.
These added problems in schools are self-inflicted. Students have control over the impact of alcohol on schoolwork, but are reluctant to give up drinking. In my experience, students refuse to stop drinking for psychiatric reasons, like stress, boredom, guilt or grief. Many students cope with these things, and life, through drinking. So long as this link exists, we are “coping” while drinking, making drinking too routine, establishing a problem.
Why do students drink?
They’re stressed and bored. They’re just around the age when it’s legal for them. Bars are inviting atmospheres. Students and their friends want to go out and that means drinking. Sometimes, students pressure each other to see how much the other can take, like alcohol endurance, a self-destructive game. Alcohol, in these little ways, makes for an enjoyable affair. I understand this, but as students, we do not fully understand the problem.
We are in our prime. The negative health effects from drinking seem a little far fetched, at first, but if this habit is prolonged, it will become a grim reality. If drinking is routine, students may choose alcohol over school (consciously or subconsciously). The student may have another psychiatric problem: alcohol dependence. Student may find themselves not fully engaged in school and just paying tuition to loiter.
Alcohol is a monstrous problem and VCU cannot do too much to protect students. Drinking is an individual choice. Some guidance on alcohol abuse is available through the Wellness Resource Center. On the Well’s website is a self-assessment questionnaire. The test only takes 20 minutes and is confidential. Anyone who is concerned about their habits should take advantage of the survey. The Well also provides a program called Choices, a two-part lecture series on the effects of alcohol.
I see many students who have become distracted by alcohol. Some of these students are friends, close friends and roommates. In an academic environment, it is too easy to become an alcoholic.