Batting the binge-drinking life

    “”1:27 a.m.: Police detained a 21-year-old female student for being drunk in public at Stewart Hall. Transported to detox.

    Pat Leung
    Guardian

    “”2:09 a.m.: A 20-year-old student was arrested on Regents Road for driving under the influence of alcohol and in violation of a court order. Transported to Central Jail.

    “”2:42 a.m.: Police arrested a 20-year-old male nonaffiliate on La Jolla Village Drive for being drunk in public and for vandalism. Transported to County Jail after being rejected by detox.””

    The list goes on. Ever wonder how many people really get transported to detox on an average night? Or how many people actually get caught drunk in public? For every person who is reported, there are probably 30 puking their guts out from a night of heavy binge drinking.

    College drinking has become somewhat of a culture. To most, the college experience is not complete without alcohol. But should college drinking really be considered a rite of passage?

    While UCSD can be considered to be at a safe distance from high-alert alcoholism, binge drinking continues to be a problem for the college community.

    A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol estimated that over 1,400 students ages 18 through 24 in two- and four-year colleges died in 1998 from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.

    Surveys conducted in 1999 showed that in the preceding year, over 2 million of the 8 million college students in the United States drove under the influence of alcohol, and over 3 million rode with a drunken driver. The study also reported that over 500,000 full-time, four-year college students were unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol, and over 600,000 were hit or assaulted by another student who had been under the influence.

    These extreme numbers resemble more than just “”college students who drink.”” The figures have manifested themselves through the increasing occurrence of binge drinking. These findings have prompted many colleges and universities to expand prevention, awareness and treatment programs to reduce alcohol-related injuries among students.

    A newer national report published last week, “”A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges,”” profiled those who were most prone to drinking: “”First-year students (during the first weeks of arrival), males, whites, members of fraternities and sororities [and] athletes.””

    Furthermore, college students who frequently binge drink are increasingly prone to being the victim or perpetrator of sexual abuse, assault, vandalism, property damage and alcohol abuse. Students who binge drink suffer from academic and health problems and are more likely to engage in unsafe sex and have frequent suicide attempts.

    So where does UCSD fall relative to this national phenomenon?

    According to the Core Alcohol Drug Survey, which was conducted at UCSD in 1999 by Lupe Samaniego-Kraus and Nancy Wahlig of the Student Safety Awareness Program, UCSD has a 31 percent rate of high-risk alcoholism, contrasted with the national average of 44 percent. The ranking is based on a five-drink scale, after which is the average threshold for belligerent behavior.

    It was also found that 58 percent of those polled at UCSD who drank were under 21 years of age. Of the 465 students surveyed, the annual prevalence (consumption of liquor within the past year) was at 76 percent.

    I am happy to report that UCSD falls below the national average, and that it is safe to say that 72 percent of UCSD students, according to the C.O.R.E. survey, are not high-risk drinkers.

    Most researchers believe that a college campus’ rate of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems stem from that particular university’s alcohol policy. They believe that there exist environmental factors — aside from individual alcoholism — that sustain or restrain high-risk alcoholism on campus.

    So what is UCSD’s policy?

    In place since 1968, the basic alcohol policy at UCSD states that students under 21 are not allowed to consume or possess alcohol in any public or private area on campus. Alcohol consumption is prohibited for all students in public areas of the on-campus housing facilities operated by UCSD.

    Students over 21 can have alcohol in private areas. However, they are not allowed to possess large-volume containers such as kegs. No unlicensed individual of any age is allowed to sell alcohol in the residence halls or apartments. In licensed on-campus facilities not operated by UCSD, large-volume containers of alcohol such as kegs, pony kegs and “”party balls”” are prohibited.

    Campus policy states that the use of alcohol or other drugs does not limit the responsibility of individuals for their actions. Additionally, party sponsors are responsible for all damage caused by their guests.

    However, while UCSD’s alcohol policy seems to be straightforward and zero-tolerance, UCSD has witnessed a varied reinforcement of these policies over the years. In June 1997, UCSD installed an alcohol surcharge that affected the two privately owned pubs on campus. In addition, UCSD’s policy prohibits “”alcohol promotion or advertising, including advertising that implies that alcohol will be available at an event.””

    UCSD is not a high-risk campus, due to the many programs and campaigns that make an effort curb alcohol related injuries. Many programs designed to increase student alcohol awareness have sprung up in recent years, and they may be the contributing factors to UCSD’s low levels of binge drinking.

    Thurgood Marshall College’s Alcohol Awareness Week, which takes place every second week of April, advertises the consequences of alcoholism. UCSD’s award-winning Triton Taxi program, recently extended to Tijuana, is a student-run safe ride program that provides students with an alternative to drinking and driving.

    Another award-winning program is Creating Responsible Alcohol Services and Habits. C.R.A.S.H. was an extensive campaign that taught alcohol statistics and activities that promote safer partying. It was eventually followed by Celebrating Healthy Environments through the Empowerment of Responsible Students, or C.H.E.E.R.S.

    Currently, the “”Most”” campaign is also promoting the unattractiveness of drinking. Surely, most UCSD students have seen the black and orange signs that advertise UCSD alcohol statistics.

    Drinking affects all college students, even those who choose not to drink. It is evident that UCSD is doing its part to help alleviate the problems caused by alcohol abuse.

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