Hey there, college freshman. Could I have a minute of your time? This is your mother speaking. There’s something you need to know as you settle in and acclimate to college life: Not everybody is doing it -- drinking to get drunk.
You’ve probably already seen the pamphlets, posters in the hall, and colorful flyers on the tables in the dining hall on responsible drinking.
You may even be on a campus that conducts a “social norm” campaign. They try to use peer pressure to influence drinking by giving away Frisbees and freebies with messages like “30 percent of all students drink less than 3 drinks at a time.” Sometimes when students know their peers drink less than they think they do, they’re more inclined to drink less as well.
That’s fine, but if you’re under 21, it’s still illegal. So really, the approach is a little bit like targeting known bank robbers with free T-shirts that say “Half of all thieves knock over less than three banks a month.” Whatever floats your boat. Or brewery.
You’ll also hear a lot about binge drinking. Binge drinking is downing five or more drinks in a row if you’re male and four or more if you’re female. When a Delaware college student was told that definition, he said, “That’s ridiculous. That’s like a Tuesday night.”
If you were a binge drinker in high school you're likely to be a binge drinker in college. A lot of freshmen do it, because, well, they can. The thing is, you get so much more than drunk.
An on-going Harvard School of Public Health study has determined that binge drinkers are also more likely to be hurt or injured, fall from a height that requires medical treatment, cause an injury or burn to someone else that requires medical treatment, and cause injury in an automobile crash. More fun than finals, right?
The same study also found that three out of four rapes on campus occurred when the victims were intoxicated.
Oh yes, if you see a binge drinker pass out after drinking, it’s a good idea to call 911. When you’re that drunk your gag reflex can shut down and you run the risk of choking on your own vomit.
Binge drinking is the easy way to fit in. It allows you to instantly be part of a social group and relieves you of the burden of possessing conversational skills.
Here’s what you’re not going to hear about drinking: The Harvard study found the number of binge drinkers has risen, but so has the number of students abstaining. They’re just not going there. They’re not parched freaks and geeks, they’re just not going there.
This increase in students not drinking has been noted among Hispanics, Native Americans, students who live in residence halls, among students attending schools located in the Northeast in rural areas, small towns and, almost unbelievably, even in fraternity and sorority houses.
Why doesn’t the non-drinking news get the press? Same reason the Boy Scout helping the old lady across the street doesn’t get the press. Too tame. Not enough hysteria.
Why do I care if some kid wants to be binge drink? Because I’ve seen how life can change on a dime. I’ve been to the funerals.
Yes, a lot of under age students are tossing them back, but a lot of students aren’t. Now I said it. I won’t mention it again; I’m not going to nag.
Just one more thing. Eat your vegetables. They can help ward off that freshman 15.
Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author of several books including Pass the Faith, Please (Waterbrook Press) and All Stressed Up and No Place to Go (Emmis Books). Comments may be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.