October, a Risky Time for College Students


octoberTo me when I think of a college campus, I often connect it with the fall. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s the nostalgia related to my college memories: football games, homecoming, and Halloween weekend. Without a doubt, this is a fun time of year to be a college student.  There are things to do and experiences around every corner.  October rolls in with its cooler weather and busy weekends all before the crunch time of academic realities. Unfortunately, this combination can lead to risky behavior related to alcohol.

I have heard my colleagues comment that Homecoming and Halloween weekends are prime time for excessive drinking behavior.  Although I don’t know if we have conducted a campus study, you only have to look in the trash cans on Sunday to see the proof.  I am not singling my campus out, this is common across the country, even more so where Greek Life and Football teams dominate the social structure.

Binge drinking around campus is a problem.  Do you know what binge drinking is?  Binge drinking is described as consuming five drinks for a man or four drinks for a woman within two hours.  You may think that your drinking behavior is not a problem because it’s what everyone does.  Maybe you haven’t even noticed that you are consuming that much alcohol within 2 hours. When mixing it up with your friends, laughing, dancing, playing pong – who’s counting?  Well, let me tell you, your mind and body is counting!

If you are a parent reading my post, maybe you think your child doesn’t drink. I am here to burst your bubble – they have, they do, and they will!  According to research summarized in a College Task Force report to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the consequences of excessive drinking by college students are more significant, more destructive, and more costly than many parents realize. And these consequences affect students whether or not they drink.

Statistics from this report indicate that drinking by college students aged 18 to 24 contributes to an estimated 1,825 student deaths, 599,000 injuries, 696,000 assaults by another student who has been drinking, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape each year.

You can still go out and have a good time, enjoying all that your school has to offer this month. I’m just sending out a caution. Like I said, I have great memories of this time of year from my college days.  Yet, I will be honest, I did participate in some risky behavior related to alcohol, and I am grateful that nothing serious happened to me. However, in my years of work in higher education, I have seen a lot and come to the realization that I was pretty lucky.  I have seen enough students vomit their brains out. (By the way, this is your body’s way of saying, “Enough! You may have lost count, but I haven’t – see!”) I have sent students to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. I have seen students get their stomachs pumped.  I have seen students pee and poop themselves because they lost count! I have seen campus vandalism caused from drunken behavior. I have sat on far too many judicial hearings where students were caught drinking and creating some problem.  And, yes, I have known girls who have been sexually assaulted while both parties were drinking too much. One night of poor decision making can haunt you for a long, long time.

If you are already concerned about your health or someone else’s, reach out to your campus health center or counseling center.  If you are a student who would like to address the drinking culture of your school, talk to student activities, the health center, or even the dean of student’s office.  If you are a parent, be real with your students, and at the same time give them a reminder to make healthy choices.  Yes, they will roll their eyes, but who cares! Ignoring the reality of college drinking could be a big mistake.

My final piece of advice to students: When you’re thinking about just one more drink, ask yourself is it necessary. That extra glass could make a big difference in the result of the evening. Please, don’t discount your option to limit or pace yourself.  This is a viable and smart alternative to what could be some dangerous (not to mention career – or life – wrecking) consequences.




“Fall Semester–A Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking” Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fall-semester–a-time-for-parents-to-discuss-the-risks-of-college-drinking-300322964.html

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