College students who live on campus are people who are experiencing what it is like to be living independently of their parents for the first time in their lives. They are now faced with the reality of the freedom they so desired while still living under parental supervision in the past. This sudden loss of parental supervision and the freedom to experience campus life without having to answer to parents often opens these young people, ranging from the ages of 18 – 24, to the possibility of abusing that which they could not enjoy to their hearts content in the past.
For most of these students, that one thing they tend to over enjoy during this period of time is alcoholic beverages. What with the frat parties and social gatherings on weekends that are a constant fixture in their college life for the next four years, those with little or no self control could and will get lost in the free flowing booze parties. This is why colleges and universities have come to realize that they must have alcohol abuse programs readily available for those students who may require intervention or would be willing to come in and personally deal with their alcoholism.
In this paper, I will be presenting the reasons why these college students tend to abuse alcohol, how the abuse can be prevented or controlled, how to spot an alcoholic college students, the effects of the alcohol abuse on the student, and what the college campuses are doing to deal with the reality of the situation. Alcoholism on campus is a situation that is long steeped in American educational tradition and has been immortalized in various Hollywood films that make getting drunk out of your skull on a nightly or weekly basis look like the only the college aged students should be living their lives while residing on campus.
Colleges and universities acknowledge the drinking problems that exist on their campuses and try to deal with the problem the best way they know how, using resources readily available to them. These days, the students have an on campus support group for any potential alcohol abuse problems they may have. The students now have access to expanded counseling services and alcoholism prevention education. Some universities even go so far as to experiment with alcohol free parties and other fun yet alcohol free activities for fraternities, sororities, and other students dormitories located on campus.
Before we discuss the way the colleges and universities are dealing with alcohol abuse on campus, we must first come to know and understand the factors that contribute to the development of such an abuse. According to the research done in 1995 by then Sec. of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, personality characteristics have something to do with alcohol related or heavy drinking problems. Students prone to alcohol abuse tend to be impulsive, prone to depression or anxiety, or possess early deviant behavior.
Due to the peer and academic pressure that exists in college, students often turn to alcohol at a method by which they can beat stress. With most students indicating that the alcohol induced loosened inhibitions helped them relax and relate better with their fellow students, translating into social acceptance in what they view to be a judgmental education based society. College campuses do no lack in trying to prevent alcohol abuse on campus. Campuses commonly sponsor alcohol awareness campaigns and do their best to incorporate classroom lectures regarding alcohol abuse whenever they can.
But this method is not deemed to be effective at all in the drive to prevent campus alcoholism. There are times when Behavioral Intervention is tried and students are made to focus on cognitive behavioral skills meant to temper their drinking habits. In a Fox News Report entitled “College Alcohol Abuse Sparks Drinking Debate”, Michael Parks reported that, as per The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism surveys are concerned, as of August 28, 2006, there are close to 1,700 college students who lose their lives due to alcohol abuse.
While the Archives of General Psychiatry indicates that 18 percent of the student population suffer from alcohol abuse related problems. These alcohol related problems range from failing grades, changes in social behavior, minor and major accidents, assault and battery, to varying degrees of violence. According to Harvard University Social Psychologist and Director for the College of Alcohol Studies of the Harvard School of Public Health Henry Wechsler‘s interview for the same Fox News report, these troubling student activities often take place on campus within the dormitories or its adjoining areas.
He also attests to the fact that alcoholic students who regularly engage in the lifestyle of binge drinking do poorly in the academic department. He explains that it is not only the Harvard student engaged in the activity who suffers but “The same goes for those living adjoining to college campuses, who suffer from everything from litter to violence”. But he also believes that the alcohol abuse on campus can be controlled if not eradicated. He developed an approach that has come to be known as “environmental prevention”.
Using this model, the schools, colleges, and universities try to provide an alcohol free dormitory surrounding by working with local law enforcement to insure that there will be no sale of liquor to minors and that those that break the law will be shut down. Using this model, the college authorities prevent the alcohol from even getting on campus in order to curb the problems brought about by the possession of alcohol by the students. The environmental prevention method advocates one clear crusade. That is that the students MUST abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages.
However effective this method has been for some campuses, detractors will always exist. Those who oppose the “environmental prevention” method claim that it is a scare tactic that works only because the student fears the repercussions of such actions and thereby prevents them from enjoying college life. Instead, some sectors propose a “Social Norms” method. Under this method, the incoming freshmen are informed that their future classmates and friends do drink and that those who abuse the bottle can come to them for help if they feel that they are becoming alcoholics.
Claims regarding the success of the “Social Norms” program is indicated in the June 2006 study published by the National Social Norms Resource Center. The study implies that college students have become more responsible drinkers over time and follow the advice given by friends who think they have drank too much and even go so far as to have designated driver’s in the event that the party gets too drunk to drive. According to the survey “… 28,000 students at 44 colleges did find that 80 percent of students drink.
But it also found that 73 percent of student drinkers have widely adopted practices such as using designated drivers, setting spending limits at bars, counting their drinks, and listening to friends who tell them they’ve drank too much. ” Another method that seems to have been gaining wide acceptance lately in the college community is the so called Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS). Under this method, various means of educating the students about alcohol abuse are used. These information dissemination methods range from emails and flyers being handed out on campus.
It is believed that BASICS works because it is not an in your face type of intervention method for the alcoholic. Instead, the method encourages the drinker to analyze the effect of alcohol on him and his lifestyle. Upon close scrutiny, this is usually enough to make the potential alcohol abuser cut back on his intake and readjust his life style in order to prevent a spiraling into binge drinking. It also gives the student a choice. That choice is to drink in a manner that will not be detrimental to his own person or the people around him.
He realizes the potential dangers and outcome of heavy drinking and chooses to minimize his alcohol intake because of a conscious decision to avoid and potential problematic situations. According to Blueprints for Violence Prevention, BASICS is administered to the student in the following manner: “BASICS is conducted over the course of two structured interviews and is delivered using motivational interviewing, a counseling modality that is empathetic and accepting rather than confrontational or judgmental. Before or after the first interview, the student completes a self-report questionnaire usually online.