Alcohol consumption increases in college


Art by Hyelee Won

Laurel Critchfield

Art by Hyelee Won
Art by Hyelee Won

Within the last year, 84 percent of college students report they drank alcohol, according to the Core national survey. Forty-five percent of college freshmen report they engaged in binge drinking at least once during the two weeks prior to completing the study.  It’s common knowledge that high schoolers who leave their parents house and go to college, toast their new found freedom with a shot.

But for some, alcohol use in college gets a little out of hand. Friday comes and the music pounds and college kids are crammed so close they’re practically glued together. The room reeks of sweat and beer. In a bathroom nearby, a girl holds her friend’s hair as she upchucks into a toilet, no longer able to hold in the contents of her stomach.
Studies done in March at Penn State University by psychology graduate student Adriene Beltz and her colleagues proved consuming alcohol during late adolescence can damage connections in the brain and impair decision-making and judgment into students’ adult years. Already known to have effects on nearly every neurological system while in the body, the Penn State study confirmed long-term consequences.
The University of Missouri-Columbia is rated by Newsweek as the 11th party school in the nation. The school acquired 880 alcohol violations in 2009 alone, even students are concerned about the effects alcohol will have on their lives.
“I think it’s rare that some would consider the effects of alcohol, especially those in high school and college,” MU freshman and 2012 alumnus Paul Leonard said. “In my experience these age groups drink because it’s believed to be cool. They drink because everyone else is. And in that mindset, when everybody is doing the same thing, it’s safe to assume no harm will come.”
In 2009, the state of MU ranked nineteenth in percentage of alcohol consumed underage, according to ACT Missouri, making the Penn State study apply that much more. RBHS learning diagnostician and psychology teacher Tim Dickmeyer said MU’s Division I status only elevates student exposure to alcohol since sports is a major focus on campus.

“Personally, I believe that students’ perceptions of alcohol change when they enter college because of the easy accessibility to alcohol and its ever presence at certain events,” Dickmeyer said. For example, “Alcohol is so tightly ingrained in the tailgating experience and the result is that some students come to see alcohol as inseparable from the football experience.”

Also, alcohol is more accessible on the MU campus than in high school because of the relationships freshmen form with upperclassmen. The younger students can convince older students to purchase alcohol for them, or they can attend parties where alcohol is readily available without an ID.

“Students are more susceptible to drinking alcohol in college because they are exposed to this type of environment,” MU freshman and 2012 alumna Alyssa Mulligan said. “College students are more likely to have a job than in high school [students]. This work experience can sometimes be a negative environment in which students are exposed to people of the older crowd that are of [legal drinking] age.”
However, MU does have several programs to combat the issues of alcohol abuse and drunk driving, including National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week and Supportive Tigers Riding In Pursuit of Ensuring Safety (STRIPES). STRIPES is a student-run sober driving organization that provides free, safe, confidential rides home to MU students and their guests.
“At the beginning of my first semester I was looking for a fun club to join with a friend, and STRIPES somehow came about,” Leonard said. “I signed up for my first night, went in and had a blast. I think I’m going on my eleventh night now volunteering for STRIPES, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. All of the other volunteers are so kind and fun to be around and I have not, as of yet, come across any difficult patrons.”
With the effects of alcoholism coming to greater light with recent studies and the increase in drinking at the college level, students such as Leonard encourage their peers to refrain from consuming alcohol underage and in large amounts. However, they recognize some people will not follow this advice.
“If you drink, do so in a place you know is safe,” Leonard said, “somewhere you can stay the night so you won’t have to drive afterwards and risk your life.”

By Laurel Critchfield