College Binge Drinking
On September 5, 2004, Sam Spady, a student at the Colorado State University, died after drinking 30 to 40 beers over an 11-hour time frame. She was a homecoming queen, class president, cheerleading captain, and honor student in high school. The CSU football game against the University of Colorado-Boulder was the college's largest annual social event, and Spady had attended a number of parties. When it became obvious how drunk she was, her friends left her to sleep it off in a fraternity house. She was subsequently found dead by a fraternity member giving his mother a tour of the house.
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Twelve days later, 18-year-old Gordie Bailey was found dead in the Chi Psi fraternity house at the University of Colorado at Boulder after drinking a massive amount of alcohol in a college hazing ritual. He had been told to drink four 1.75 liter bottle of whiskey and six 1.5 liter bottle of wine in 30 minutes before returning to the fraternity house. After he passed out, the group wrote racial slurs and other demeaning slogans on his body in another fraternity ritual. Previously, he had been named to the club lacrosse team and had excelled in athletics, music, and drama in his high school in Massachusetts, where he was co-captain of the varsity football team, playing both middle linebacker and offensive guard. He had also been given the "Class of 2004 Award of Excellence in Drama."
In 2006, Lucas Homan, a 21-year-old student from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse was found dead in the Mississippi River with the equivalent of a case a beer in his system. He was preceded by 8 young men who were also found dead in the river after a night of binge drinking. He had begun drinking the night before at a house party to celebrate the Oktoberfest. He continued drinking at downtown bars with a hometown friend who had been visiting. One of those friends was found stumbling around on the street and was taken to an alcohol detoxification center. Homan's body was found 2 days later.
According to recent statistics, around half of all college students engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking is generally defined as five or more drinks at one time for boys and four or more drinks for girls. Binge drinking contributes annually to around 1,700 deaths of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 years. Additionally, alcohol is a factor in 600,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or rape. It is estimated that around 70% of the on-campus student body drinks. Additionally, 80% of women living in sorority houses and 86% of men living in fraternity houses engage in binge drinking.
Besides the potential physical health problems, there are other serious problems that have been reported as a result of binge drinking:
- Around 28% of college dropouts result from alcohol abuse.
- Alcohol is a factor in 66% of student suicides.
- Alcohol is a factor in 60% of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
- Alcohol is a factor in 40% of academic problems.
- Around 87% of college students who do not engage in binge drinking have experienced problems resulting from their peers abusing alcohol, including physical assault, sexual harassment and abuse, disrupted sleep, and disrupted study sessions.
- The Journal of American College Health published a survey stating that 73% of assailants and 55% of rape victims used drugs of alcohol prior to their assault.
- Financial problems have resulted from the money spent on alcohol, which is more than is spent on books, soda, coffee, juice, and milk combined.
- Find out if there are any student groups sponsoring alcohol-free activities. If there are, contact media sources to generate publicity for these events. If not, speak to the college administration about sponsoring these events.
- Talk to other parents about what is happening with their children, and bring the findings to the attention of the college student advisory board.
- Get together with students and faculty to define an alcohol policy on campus if one does not already exist.
- Encourage fraternities and sororities to sponsor alcohol-free events.
- Get signatures on petitions to eliminate the advertising of beer specials and happy hour on and near the college campus.
- Post facts about college binge drinking in dormitories, classrooms, hallways, common areas, cafeterias, health centers, and study areas.
- Sponsor alcohol-free events in the college community, such as dances, bands, speakers, theater, and literary readings.
- Make sure that alcohol and substance abuse information and treatment is available to the student population.
Once parents determine that their child is at risk or have indulged in college binge drinking, they should also consider enrolling their son or daughter in an alcohol-free college program, in a short-term educational program to teach them about the danger of college binge drinking, or in a residential substance abuse program that includes academics. Because college binge drinking is a serious, potentially fatal problem that is also considered fashionable at the majority of college campuses, parents should not hesitate to protect their children - even if it stresses the relationship between the parents and their children. The alternative might just possibly be planning a young adults funeral.