Alcohol programs aim to curb binge drinking

Sophomore Chris Miller has a friend who often engages in binge drinking.

“He gets drunk way too fast and passes out a lot. He does it for the thrill and because he doesn’t like social drinking,” Miller said.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as any drinking practice that creates a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or above. Within two hours, this usually corresponds to a rate of four or more drinks for females and five or more for males. A “drink” is usually defined as one-and-a-half ounces of alcohol, which can be one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

Repercussions of binge drinking include long-term health damage such as liver disease, heart disease, certain forms of cancer and pancreatitis; it also leads to lowered inhibitions. The ability to make decisions is impaired, which might lead to injury to oneself or others. Consuming too much alcohol in a short period of time can also lead to alcohol poisoning and death.

“(Binge drinking) is clearly an issue for all college students. For USF students in particular it has become one of the issues that’s on the forefront,” said Hope Johnson, coordinator for alcohol and other drugs at Student Health Services. According to Student Health Services, 12 percent of USF students have participated in high-risk drinking at least once a week. Although this statistic might seem low, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Tim Miller said this is no reason to slack off on the alcohol education program. Miller is on the board of directors for the Bucchus Company, a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to helping students and adults make informed decisions that lead to a healthy and safe lifestyle.

“We have a fair amount of evidence that suggests that the frequency of problematic drinking on this campus is not quite as high as it is at other institutions, but that doesn’t mean we should rest and let the statistics catch up,” Miller said. “I think that means that we are making progress. As long as there are some students who have unfortunate outcomes because of drinking decisions they have made, up to and including death, we still have work to do.”

University officials have become more concerned about high-risk drinking and alcohol safety since the death of sophomore Samantha Spade last year. Spade died from alcohol poisoning at the Sigma Pi Fraternity house at the University of Colorado.

“Since (Spade’s death, universities) have changed a lot of the rules concerning drinking and partying,” Johnson said. “Her parents said that they told her to watch out for strangers, they told her to watch out for guys when dating, but they never told her not to drink too much. Later they wondered if she knew that if she drank too much it could kill her.”

Chris Miller tries to protect his friend from the negative consequences associated with binge drinking.

“I don’t really worry about his safety because (my friends and I) always watch out for him and how much he drinks. We only let him drink so much. He might be stupid about it, but we aren’t,” he said.

Spade’s death has contributed to the stereotype that Greek students are more prone to binge drinking and alcohol abuse.

“There is a wide array of different groups that have been traditionally shown to be at a higher risk for making negative alcohol choices,” Johnson said. “These include your first-time-in-college students, Greeks and athletes. Also, it’s not only the group you associate on campus. It could be the student’s past history, if they came from a household where addiction is normal.”

According to SHS, the dangers of binge drinking are heightened when University events are taking place around campus, such as during Homecoming week.

“(The increased alcohol use) is why we moved up Alcohol Awareness Week to Homecoming week. We wanted to get the message out so that they stay safe during the game,” Johnson said.

National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week Events have been going on all of this week. It has sponsored events such as an “Alcohol Olympics” where participants wobbled around in beer goggles and performed tasks. Tonight at 11 the Student Health Center will sponsor a “Club 100” where “mocktails” will be given out.

“(Binge drinking) is a problem we need to address, which is why we are doing these programs,” Johnson said. “We need to do outreach, classes and activities. We’re not trying to tell people not to do certain activities, we’re trying to give them the facts, and let them make their own choices. We try to spread the word around that if you choose to drink, you should do it responsibly.”