Thinking and drinking tough mix for some college students

Theresa Montgomery

It’s Saturday night. On many college campuses, that may mean books are being pushed aside for students’ beverage of choice.

At Kent State, however, many students seem pretty balanced when it comes to their drinking habits, said Scott Olds, professor of health promotion.

“I know that’s counterintuitive to the image of college student drinking,” he said.

Olds and others, through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, are using blood-alcohol testing to study the relationship between academic performance and college student drinking, he said.

“Our research on campus suggests that most students are not drinking, and those that do, do so quite reasonably,” he said. “I would underscore that most students are very responsible with their (alcohol) consumption patterns.”

Most. Not all.

“At the risk of speaking out of both sides of my mouth, there are students on this campus, and every campus across the land, that drink heavily and have serious problems because of it,” he said.

Too much heavy drinking can and is likely to lead to problems for students. For some, it may lead to alcoholism, Olds said.

For those who feel too embarrassed to admit to themselves or another person they have a drinking problem, Olds said seeking help takes strength and is not a sign of weakness.

“The fact that a student has the insight to realize there may be a problem is a huge hurdle, and they should feel good about acknowledging as much,” he said.

Social support can be a powerful factor in changing any health behavior pattern by providing the modeling and encouragement needed for students to work through their alcohol abuse, he said.

Networking also benefits the person who cares about someone who is addicted, Olds said.

“Reaching out to others to offer help is not easy, but the benefits of doing so for the providers of support work the same as for those receiving it,” Olds said.

Help is available through the DeWeese Health Center and other organizations.

Diagnosing alcoholism in college students is not an easy task, said Drew Hunter, president and CEO of The BACCHUS Network. The BACCHUS Network is a national, student-run organization that provides resources and support for college students surrounding a variety of health concerns, including alcohol addiction.

“There are many degrees of alcohol abuse that run from the occasional problem on a single evening, to frequent problem behavior,” he said.

Founded in 1975 at the University of Florida, BACCHUS was the first student organization formed on-campus to address the issue of alcoholism among college students, Hunter said.

Early efforts concentrated on raising awareness, helping student organizations have safer parties and preventing drinking and driving by students.

“Times were different then,” Hunter said. “There was little attention to the alcohol issue on campus from the government or the media. Yet, there were many incidences of alcohol abuse causing harm in the life of college students.”

BACCHUS, also the name of the god of wine in Greek mythology, was originally an acronym, meaning “Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students.” Over time, the organization has dropped the words associated with the acronym but retained its purpose, Hunter said.

Now an international network, with chapters in every state, BACCHUS allows each of its campus affiliates to develop their own program focus on the health or safety topics that meet the needs of the campus taking part in the program.

The requirements for membership are that the group has a staff or faculty adviser and a student-based membership. The group must be recognized on campus as a student organization, or as part of a department, Hunter said.

At the Kent State chapter of BACCHUS, run through the Center for Student Involvement, the focus has recently been on issues related to smoking, said Scott Dotterer, coordinator of Student Health Promotion in DeWeese Health Center and BACCHUS adviser at Kent State.

Laura Buckeye, director of the Center for Health Promotion, is currently conducting research on tobacco prevention efforts for BACCHUS under a grant from the Ohio Department of Health, Buckeye said.

More information about BACCHUS and its Peer Education Network can be found at

Contact features correspondent Theresa Montgomery at [email protected]