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Partying Safely

Students have heard from their parents, from friends, and from teachers or counselors in high school that they should not drive after drinking, that they should watch out for their friends, and that they should not drink anything they didn't see poured. They hear the same reminders when they arrive on campus.

Students also are told not to leave a party alone or stay after their friends leave. They also are urged to be cautious with new friends. Most sexual assaults on campus are committed by acquaintances.

One of the most important lessons students can learn is to know their limits. Some young adults can drink heavily with no visible signs of impairment; others can be affected by a single drink.

Alternatives to Drinking

Students often claim that they drink "because there's nothing else to do." Young adults who are under 21 may not be allowed into clubs, or they may be relegated to "Under 21" nights if they want to hear live music. Some activities, indeed, are restricted to those who are not yet of legal drinking age. Moreover, the cost of going to a club or concert can be a drain on student budgets.

Problems crop up, though, when drinking itself becomes the entertainment. When students get together with no focus but to drink, alcohol consumption becomes a game. This is when drinking gets most dangerous.

On a limited student budget, and with the challenge of getting alcohol without a valid ID, students will obtain whatever they can and find ways to get the "biggest bang for the buck." A six-pack of beer is all the more effective if it's consumed quickly, so students find creative ways to drain a can into their mouths with no break, or they do keg stands to add inequilibrium to the high. They know they can't carry a beer back to the residence hall, so they guzzle it down until they run out or pass out, whichever comes first.

Students do, however, know how to have fun without drinking. "It's [alcohol] just a little part of college, you know there's so much more stuff going on."

In the residence halls, they gather in a friend's room to watch movies or play cards. They go to concerts or sports events, either on campus or off-campus.

Student Organizations

A campus may also have student groups dedicated to reducing alcohol abuse on campus.

The important goal is for students to find ways to have fun without the heavy drinking.

Student: "The first year that I was here I didn't drink, and I still felt that I fit in."

Student: "It bothers me. I know there are a lot of other things out there to do, like clubs and things like that, but for some reason, it just always seems to be centered around things that aren't in the best of interest for most people. And they just, people go hog wild with it, you know. There are so many people who get in trouble or get hurt from doing dumb things like that, and just for some reason, ever since I've heard about college, what do you associate college with? Drinking, going out, having a good time."

Although campus drinking levels across the country are significant, colleges and universities make great efforts to promote anti-drinking campaigns and to schedule alternative activities to drinking. Even the most successful programs, however, run the risk of missing large segments of the student population who don't participate in the programs.

Assignment

Please consider the following:

What does your student do when he/she doesn't want to drink with friends? What activities have your student found that don’t involve drinking?

After College

Students frequently say they drink to relieve the stress of college, and they believe they will stop drinking - or at least moderate their drinking - when they graduate. Studies have shown that there is some truth to their predictions. College attendance is cited as a risk factor in heavy drinking rates. As students graduate, take on full-time jobs, and enter into relationship commitments, there is a pattern known as "maturing out" when young adults reduce their heavy alcohol consumption (Bartholow, Sher, & Krull, 2003).

Student:  "It's gone through stages. Like when I first got here, like my freshman year it was hard core partying and I joined a sorority, and like all the time. I think classes were easier and I just went out all the time. And then I started dating somebody, so then it dropped down kind of like middle of my sophomore year, right so there was like a year and a half there where it was like, pretty much partying a lot you know. Going out all the time, and I liked it, I enjoyed it. But then like it kinda stopped...since [then], like I went out last night and that was fine because it was a Sunday night, it wasn't crowded, it wasn't smoky, people weren't stepping on my feet you know. But like Friday and Saturday nights when it's all crowded and I just, I don't like it anymore. You know I'm not going to pick up [a guy], I'm not wearing the 'when I was 18 years old' clothes you know. I'm kind of, I'm old now you know. You go into bars and you're like you know, taking away graduate students you're like three-fourths of this college campus is younger than me you know like, I'm not gonna meet anybody here. I'm moving, I'm not interested and I think that's why like, that's why I would always go out, maybe I'd meet somebody you know."