The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) National Advisory Council defined binge drinking as pattern of alcohol drinking which makes the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram-percent or above. For males this would correspond to 5 drinks or more and for females, 4 drinks or more in just 2 hours.
There are a lot of factors which account for college drinking. This might be attributed to the type of institution that the student is in – data might vary from public to private universities and from gender exclusive to coeducational colleges.
However, it can also be noted from some researches that students who enter colleges are more prone to heavy drinking as compared to those who did not go to college. Another factor would be the location of the educational institution, from which several issues arise like alcohol’s availability, its price and marketing and other locally known alcohol-related traditions.
Colleges have a rich history of tradition in which alcohol is the focal point of the event. This might also be influenced by the alumni, who have powerful voice with such activities. Another important factor to consider is the measurement of an objective data indicated by the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels, which is used for evaluation of the accuracy of self-reports made by students.
Geography might also play an important role because according to a study conducted by Fullbright-Anderson, institutions which are more than one mile away from liquor shops have a low rate of heavy episodic drinking as opposed to those outlets within a mile. Children of Alcoholics also have a high probability of becoming alcoholic themselves and are more at risk to have alcohol-related problems in the future. (Baer, 2002)
In some institutions with predominantly black students, students have significantly lower rate of high-risk drinking as compared to predominantly white institutions.
Pascarella and Terenzeni with their study on How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research in 1991 noted that women enrolled in gender-specific campuses have less alcohol-related problems than for women who are in coeducational campuses.
Negative consequences of alcohol misuse are academic impairment, damage to self such as blackouts/memory loss, personal injuries, fights, interpersonal violence, physical illnesses, unintended and unprotected sexual activity, suicide, sexual coercion, acquaintance rape victimization, impaired driving, legal repercussions, impaired athletic performance, damage to other people, property damage, vandalism, and institutional costs and damage. (Perkins, 2002)
However, it seems that the most influential factor governing college drinking would be demographic variables combined with individual’s behaviour and personal values. Peer pressure and one’s decision not to drink alcohol are directly related with environmental variables rather than one’s personal beliefs. Shore found out that college life seems to be separated or insulated from the existing world. (Presley, 2002)
One particular environmental reason which contributes to alcohol misuse would be the presence of a Greek system and in some cases athletics. Students who are affiliated with the Greek system have more negative consequences and increased rates of heavy episodic drinking. Moreover, fraternity and sorority leaders oftentimes set the trend for drinking norms for the members.
Based on a study, 60% of fraternity members were already engaged in binge drinking during high school and 75% of the residents who weren’t heavy drinkers during high school became heavy episodic drinkers in college. (Wechsler, 1995) Even students involved in athletics are more prone to binge drinking. (Presley, 2002)
The campus environment and peer interaction seem to wield a great impact on the students’ drinking behaviour especially to students who live near the campus, away from parental supervision. Environmental aspect interacts with students’ unique experiences.
In a study by Clapp et al. in 2000 (p. 289), they established that the previous circumstances which surround alcohol consumption are found in the interaction between the individual and his environment and is specific on the situation, rather than an innate behaviour of individuals.
This means that it is also important to take into account the most recent events which led to the last heavy episodic drinking. Some of the most common situations are being with friends, on dates, interacting at parties, and socializing.
It was further observed that during the last high-risk drinking, presence of neighbours, close friends and colleagues increased alcohol consumption. Personal beliefs such as religion and family values of an individual are usually outweighed by environmental aspect combined with peer interaction, which contributes to one’s decisions of drinking or not drinking alcohol.
With this in mind, the student can be perceived as the prime stakeholder central to massive policies being implemented against alcoholism. The students, themselves should be accountable in drinking responsibly.
Policies when implemented based on students’ own set of values can bring about a successful and long-term change. Self-monitoring and self-evaluation of students’ behaviour are effective when it complies with community’s standards of behaviour.
(Dowdall and Wechsler, 2002) This is in reference to certain organizations – Greek systems, athletics and some particular organizations. (Gulland, 1994) Students can exercise their freedom while maintaining their accountability, especially during campus events. Likewise, events where alcohol is the focal point should be replaced with worthwhile activities where they could enjoy without the presence of alcohol.
This could eventually set up a good example for other students to follow. Having students who have had tragic experiences with alcohol and letting them share these with their fellow students could be an eye-opener as well. This would help convey feelings of oneness that alcohol abuse goes beyond personal issues and involves the entire campus community.