To binge is to cram an excessive amount of something into a short amount of time — common with Netflix, but potentially deadly with alcohol.
The University of Utah is a dry campus. If students are caught with alcohol, they “are subject to discipline for use, possession, or distribution of alcoholic beverages of any type on University premises,” as is stated in the U’s policies.
That doesnít stop students from indulging in a classic college pastime ó partying. Students drink alcohol when cutting loose after a long week of classes and sometimes, binge drinking becomes a habit.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 37.9 percent of college students between 18 and 22 years old reported binge drinking recently.
In the BBC documentary ìIs Binge Drinking Really that Bad?î twins Chris and Alexander van Tulleken found that binge drinking on the weekend is actually worse for the body than drinking moderately throughout the week. The brothers drank the same amount each week, one condensed to the weekend, the other throughout the span of seven days.
“I’d caused widespread and serious damage to my entire body,” binge drinking brother Alexander van Tulleken told The Daily Mirror in an interview.
Binge drinking left Alexander with three times more bacteria in his bloodstream than his brother.
Binge Drinking at the U
Students at the U are not immune from these consequences. Measured by the studentsí self-reports, three out of every 10 students who went to the Uís counseling center for an initial appointment had reported binge drinking in the past two weeks. With binge drinking comes the threat of alcohol poisoning, which kills around six people in the U.S. each day, according to a 2015 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We definitely see students who are wanting to make changes in their alcohol use,” said Lauren Weitzman, director of the U’s counseling center.
Kaitlyn Brown, a clinical and applied toxicology fellow at the Utah Poison Control Center explained some symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
“Basically, when people have too much alcohol or when people are getting poisoned by alcohol, a concerning set of symptoms for that are vomiting, and theyíre vomiting repeatedly,” Brown said. “They also become altered in their mental status, so they get really sleepy. They can be confused, they can also have problems with their balance and not being able to walk straight or stay upright. The other issue is that they’ll get too sleepy, so they’ll get to the point where theyíre not able to stay awake or are very difficult to arouse in that case, that is more severe.”
If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, the Poison Control Center can determine an appropriate course of action.
“In most cases [of alcohol poisoning], if they are still kind of conscious with you but vomiting a lot, we encourage [you] to call the Poison Control Center,” Brown said.
If the symptoms are severe, however, Brown advises seeking medical attention immediately by calling 911.
“If you get too sleepy and youíre vomiting, there’s a huge chance that you can basically choke on your vomit and that can get into your lungs and affect your breathing ultimately,” Brown said. “You can also have your ability to breathe decrease — you can end up having what we call respiratory depression.”
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found each year around 1,800 college students die of accidental alcohol-related injuries, 696,000 are assaulted by an intoxicated student, 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault and 599,000 are unintentionally injured under the influence. With such high risks, Brown explained her hypothesis on why binge drinking is such an epidemic on college campuses across the nation.
“I think a lot of it probably stems from the younger population that tends to be on college campuses,” Brown said. “They typically aren’t folks who may have drunk before, and they may be first-time drinkers so the’re really not aware of the limitation and also sometimes the culture of the college or the people that theyíre with might pressure them into consuming more alcohol.”
One of the keys to drinking responsibly is knowing when to put the bottle down.
“I think it goes without saying that in order to drink responsibly, people should really try to be aware of their limitations and not consume an excessive amount,” Brown said. “It’s variable to a person so if someone is new to drinking, they shouldn’t really exceed more than one drink every couple of hours. They should be safe in that sense and be aware of who they’re with while theyíre drinking. Make sure that they trust the people they’re around and make sure that they are being responsible by not putting others in danger by driving or doing anything that they shouldn’t while under the influence of alcohol.”
There are many resources students can utilize to drink responsibly and stay safe. The U’s counseling center recommends individual or group counseling as well as its Mindfulness Center workshop for students who wish to change their drinking habits. Another completely free and confidential resource that is available around the clock is the Utah Poison Control Center, which can answer questions regarding alcohol poisoning.
The Chicago-based Drinking Tutors is a company any student can subscribe to for under $5 a week, to help set goals and receive safe drinking tips to prevent binge drinking altogether.
“I wholeheartedly support our students making decisions that they feel are in their best interest, and I know that a large portion of our student body enjoys drinking and finds that itís a fun addition to their college experience,” said Associated Students of the University of Utah President Zach Berger. “But given the dangers that accompany binge drinking, I really hope that anyone who chooses to drink does so responsibly and takes care to be cognizant of factors like stress, food consumption and tolerance. I also hope that our students are vigilant about the threat of alcoholism both for themselves and those around them. Once again, if students choose to drink, that’s absolutely their prerogative and I support them in that, but I’d strongly encourage them to be responsible.”