As college students, we can all acknowledge that we are here to earn a degree and prepare ourselves for the “real world.” But there’s also a part of developing our identities that involves having some fun, blowing off steam and escaping the pressures of an intense course load. Enter social life here.
A simple scan of a Facebook or Twitter feed will reveal countless pictures and comments related to going out. Whether it be to the the bars, a house party, or a special event, social media reveals that, indeed, our social lives are alive and well at St. Thomas. The fact that the Wellness Center has a tab dedicated to responsible drinking on their website confirms that the university has put resources toward helping students make the most responsible decisions while consuming alcohol.
So, I wondered, how much does an average college student actually consume during these social gatherings, and do we fall under the binge drinking category?
According to the Wellness Center, binge drinking essentially includes: drinking a lot in a short amount of time, drinking a lot, period, reaching a very high blood alcohol level, or experiencing problems as a result of drinking habits.
Recently, many national studies have addressed college binge drinking and the results are a bit concerning. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that more than 80 percent of college students drink and almost half of that number report binge drinking in the past two weeks, which the institute defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row.
I hesitate, and am almost embarrassed, to admit that five drinks over the course of a night doesn’t seem like all that many to me. Before you assume that I’m a crazy party girl who’s dismissing drunken mishaps, I’d like to affirm that I’m not. I’m proud to say that I’ve never received any violations regarding alcohol consumption before or after I turned 21. Enjoying a cocktail a few times a week is my idea of a good time.
However, I think if we all imagine our “going-out” routines, we could agree that three or four drinks are sometimes consumed before even leaving the house to go to the bar. The more alarming idea is that for many college students, five or more drinks may be a norm. Of-age students drinking responsibly is OK, but overdoing is not.
Bottom’s up: binge drinking research
To investigate how much an average college student actually consumes, I asked two St. Thomas of-age seniors if they wanted to help me get an idea of an average night out. I worked with one male and one female, whose names shall remain anonymous, and tracked their alcohol consumption during their normal Thursday “going-out” routine. My research started around 9:30 p.m. and spanned to bar close. The male student recorded consuming 14 standard drinks (defined as a mixed drink, shot, or beer) during his night and the female had nine beverages throughout her night.
The mixed drinks of choice for these socialites were vodka-Sprites and vodka-lemonades before the bar, while at the bar they drank water moccasins, tequila shots and beer. Throw in a slice of pizza, Cheez-Its or peanut butter toast as an after-bar snack and they called it a night.
The students also completed the university’s E-Chug survey to see how many calories they consumed in alcohol and snacks.
According to their E-Chug surveys, in one month, the female student consumes 7,856 liquid calories, or the equivalent of 22 cheeseburgers. The male found he consumes 18,679.2 liquid calories, which is equal to 53 cheeseburgers.
I’d like to add a disclaimer at this point: two individuals do not necessarily reflect St. Thomas’ drinking patterns as a whole, but, that said, the bar filled to capacity with students drinking does. If these two drank this much that night, I have a feeling that others did, too.
Although on paper, the number of drinks that these students consumed seems excessive, they reported feeling a “normal drunk” at the end of the night, which they defined as being able to function and being able to remember the majority of their night. As a witness, I can vouch for the fact that while drunk, these students were not acting out of control or incoherent. They were not removed from the bar during their night for over-intoxication, nor did they require assistance when leaving the establishment at bar close.
Still, according to NIAAA, the amount ingested is far beyond a binge drinker.
We develop what seems to be a tolerance to “binge drinking,” as it seems common to consume more than five drinks per night. We should be troubled that over-drinking is an accepted norm of the college lifestyle for many students.
According to DrinkSmarter.org, people who drink regularly become less affected by the alcohol and end up drinking more until reaching a satisfying buzz. To surpass the tolerance, we end up drinking more than the five drinks that qualify a night as a “binger.” As a result, even if we don’t mean to binge drink, we do so to get the same feeling.
I’m not trying to advocate for or criticise the drinking habits of the college environment. I’m simply suggesting that maybe we are consuming too much. We need to be aware of the capacity at which we “relax” or “have some fun.” It seems normal for us to pre-game with four shots because our tolerance requires this much for us to feel the effects. If we drink less frequently and in moderation, we won’t need 10 or more cocktails to let loose. Even better? We might refrain from draining our bank accounts or drinking our daily calorie intakes.
Nicole Soyka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.