We’ve got to do more to save our young people from alcohol abuse. It’s a killer.
than 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol, and 500,000
students are injured by it, according to the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
By day, these students have
curious, textured, challenging minds. By night, too many are getting
blackout drunk, mixing shots with potent drugs and randomly hooking up.
The students say, “That’s what we aim for: black-out drunk.” And they often mix alcohol with prescription drugs.
What can be done? Campus administrators know there is no single solution to the puzzle. But there are a lot of different pieces.
Reflection: Ask students what they seek to gain from drinking. If it’s
to be more socially at ease, suggest that the same goal can be achieved
with fewer drinks. Emphasize side benefits, like saving money by
drinking less and avoiding a hangover or a reckless sexual encounter.
Social justice: Ask students if they are playing into alcohol industry
goals. Ask them if they really want to be so heavily subsidizing an
industry that kills 85,000 Americans a year.
u Knowledge is a piece.
talk about what a safe blood alcohol content level means, depending on
a person’s size and weight. Discuss the research showing that women may
be more vulnerable to alcohol abuse, achieving higher blood alcohol
content levels on comparable amounts of alcohol. Differentiate between
abuse and drinking. Point them to the Web site echeckuptogo.com, where they can evaluate themselves.
Peer leadership: Guide student leaders, athletes, and resident advisers
to shift the culture and cap the excesses. Coaches, professors and
deans all have a role to play here.
u Working with parents: When
parents bring their kids to visit prospective colleges, stress the
campus’ efforts at preventing alcohol abuse. When parents drop their
kids off for Freshman Week, the dean of students should provide a
packet of information both to students and parents on the dangers of
drug and alcohol abuse — and the resources on campus to combat it.
Rethinking punishment: Give out informational resources with each
underage ticket, including a list of alcohol-free community activities.
Make enforcement consistent. Separate residence-counseling from
enforcement so students can trust their counselors.
Let us embrace those young curious, textured and challenging minds. Let us work with them to find solutions. Together, we can.
Gwinn Adrian is co-director of the Dane County Coalition to Reduce
Alcohol Abuse, based in Madison, Wis. She wrote this for Progressive
Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and
international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.