Student binge drinking stays steady

Kelly Byer

Efforts to curb risky habits produce minimal effects

A study on drinking practices at Kent State shows that despite efforts to reduce drinking, the amount of students who engage in high-risk drinking has remained steady at about 50 percent since 2000.

The survey, conducted in April, is available to students online, said Scott Dotterer, coordinator for the Office of Student Health Promotions. The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services offers Kent State a yearly grant for $25,000, which goes toward multiple initiatives, including the survey.

“To be able to systematically collect data is helpful in order to be able to see changes over time, but also to be able to identify some of the issues that you want to focus on,” Dotterer said.

High-risk drinking, for men, is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting, at least one time within the past two weeks. For women, the amount is less by one drink, at four in one sitting, within the two-week time frame.

“That’s the same definition as binge-drinking,” Dotterer said. The survey also shows a decrease in students abstaining from alcohol and in the amount of drunken driving as well.

Alice Ickes, crime prevention officer, said the prevalence of alcohol advertising and its availability might be a factor in students drinking more.

“Now there’s such a proliferation of alcohol vendors,” Ickes said, adding that they “advertise like there’s no tomorrow.”

Statistics on drinking and driving could be affected by the amount of law enforcement available, Ickes said.

Dotterer said many factors could have contributed to the decrease in drunken driving.

“We talk to students and do various types of programs and outreach and especially address the issue of drinking and the importance of getting a designated driver,” Dotterer said, adding “decisions that are made under the influence can impact somebody for a lifetime.”

Ickes said secondhand effects of binge drinking can negatively affect the university’s retention rates and the community.

Some students might drop out because of slipping grades related to their drinking habits, but other students might choose to leave because of their peers’ actions.

“If you’re a good student but your sleep and study time is interrupted by intoxicated students, you might choose to go to another school,” Ickes said.

Michael Merino, senior computer design and animation major, said he has witnessed the negative effects of binge drinking.

“I’ve seen stuff get destroyed by people that are drunk,” Merino said. “It doesn’t really benefit anyone.”

Tim Anstine, freshman visual communication design major, said he thinks students binge drink because of the college culture.

“They think it’s another thing you’re supposed to do,” he said.

Tony Chacon, senior English major, said he’s not against drinking but thinks some students place too much importance on it.

“I think it’s because people are just so excited to be on their own, they just go crazy,” he said.

During his freshman year, Chacon said his roommate had alcohol poisoning and had to be taken to the hospital.

“It was just a really rough night for everyone involved,” Chacon said.

Ickes also said that while drinking is often viewed as a college problem, the survey shows that the majority of students began drinking in high school.

“We’ve continually had the social norm project, which is to publicize accurate information about drinking,” Ickes said.

The “Thinking about your drinking?” campaign, along with the Health Services’ National Alcohol Screening Day and the Alcohol Coalition Committee, are efforts to reduce drinking at Kent State, Ickes said.

Even so, Ickes said there is still no evidence that the campaign has reduced binge drinking. But the campaign and surveys do correct misperceptions about how much other students drink, which can be a risk factor for alcohol abuse.

“This is a real project,” Ickes said. “What many people said at the beginning was that there would be no one single answer, that it would require multiple disciplines and multiple efforts to reduce high-risk drinking.”

Those beliefs are something that has now become evident, Ickes said.

Contact safety reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected].