Thursday, November 8, 2007

Alcoholism stalks college students

Party habits can quietly become lifelong

Young people going off to college and getting drunk a lot is a national problem. Now comes finding a solution.

Rendie Skaggs, 19, part of a student group working to reduce alcohol abuse among college students, agrees that student culture encourages drinking.

“There is more of a set culture in college towns,” she said. “There are more parties and more drinking.”

As secretary and senate representative with the NSU chapter of BACCHUS (Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students), Skaggs said her group tries to equip students with social tools.

“We know we can’t stop college students from drinking, so we inform them about handling alcohol safely, about how much alcohol will cause you to get drunk depending on your body weight, about having a designated driver, and about never going out drinking by yourself,” she said.

Dr. Aaron M. White with Duke University in North Carolina said in a Web page on Duke’s Web site that the college environment promotes, or at least supports, higher than normal levels of alcohol consumption.

“Interestingly, if one looks at the drinking levels of high school students, those bound for college tend to drink less while in high school, but then quickly begin to out-drink their non-college peers once arriving at college,” he said. “Alcohol use then tapers off again once college students graduate.”

White said African-American students drink the least and are more likely to be abstainers than Caucasian students. Latino and Asian students typically fall somewhere in-between.

Skaggs said she has seen students get away from their parents and “go crazy” with partying. But she has seen an equal number who have behaved that way since high school.

“I don’t think they take it seriously,” she said. “They tell themselves ‘When I get out of college, I’ll stop doing this.’ It can be the basis for alcoholism.”

Leslie Crow, director of the John Crow IV Memorial Foundation in Dustin, said their program focuses on environmental strategies.

“The last few years in the prevention field have led up to this way of dealing with environmental factors that make it easier for college students to abuse alcohol,” she said. “In a lot of college towns, it’s easier to buy alcohol. If the student is underage, they are more likely to know someone a couple of years older than them who will buy the alcohol for them. It’s also easier to go to parties and other events where there is no one there to tell you not to abuse alcohol.”

Crow said the foundation works with campus administrators, bars, law enforcement, and city leaders.

“For example, one way for the city to help is to pass a noise ordinance that makes it easier for neighbors to report a loud house party where there may be illegal use of alcohol,” she said.

Crow said they also work with the police so they know all the laws concerning alcohol that might be broken. But, the police need help from the courts.

By Keith Purtell Phoenix Staff Writer

1 comment:

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