The school year is starting, and the start of classes will bring with it a round of end-of-summer parties. Some of these parties will be tame affairs with just a few friends and others will be raucous blowouts with dozens of people. Old friends will get reacquainted after a long summer and new friendships will be made. As different as these back-to-school parties will be, many of them will have one thing in common: binge drinking.
I am not a teetotaler and I think that moderate drinking can be part of a healthy college experience. Binge drinking, however, is a completely different animal. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.” Picture a stereotypical college party. It probably involves a couple kegs of beer and students doing multiple shots of hard alcohol. Movies, TV shows and even stories passed among friends depict getting blackout drunk as a fun activity, a rite of passage. This cultural image of heavy drinking in a short amount of time is actually binge drinking and it has serious dangers that go beyond drunk-posting an embarrassing photo. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that binge drinking can result in “unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning” and “violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault” along with other health and safety problems. Despite what the cultural depiction of fun parties would have us believe, binge drinking is actually an unhealthy and potentially life-threatening activity.
Health educators and researchers are clear on what constitutes binge drinking and what dangers it brings, but many college students aren’t as aware. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2015, 37.9 percent of college students aged 18-22 reported binge drinking activity in the previous month. That is a significant proportion of the 58 percent of college students who reported drinking at all in the same survey.
Students can take the first step towards creating a healthier alcohol culture here at the University of Utah by curbing binge drinking, starting now at end-of-summer parties. If you’re throwing the party, watch out for signs that your guests have had too much to drink. If you’re attending, limit yourself to two or three drinks in a two-hour span, and drink plenty of water. If you are not used to drinking, limit yourself even more so that you don’t test your limits. As students, we can set the expectation that getting trashed at a party, whether it’s with friends or with strangers, isn’t fun or endearing. At the very least, it is incredibly embarrassing. The level of drinking that our culture tells us is normal for college parties is actually harmful binge drinking. Let’s use our upcoming back-to-school parties to start curbing binge drinking and creating a healthier alcohol culture here in Utah.