AlcoholEDU sheds light on student drinking habits

In early January 2012, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released its Vital Signs report. The report determined that binge drinking in the United States is more prevalent than it was once thought to be.

The anonymous study randomly interviewed 457,677 people across 48 states. In summary, the CDC estimated 1 in 6 Americans—over 38 million—participate in binge drinking. The highest percentage of binge drinkers is in the 18-to-24-year-old age range.

Binge drinking is defined for men as five or more drinks in a short amount of time, whereas, for women, it is four drinks.

Out of the estimated 38 million binge drinkers, the data suggests that participants binge around four times a month. The average number of drinks consumed per sitting is eight.

The study was released at the end of UNA’s AlcoholEdu program. AlcoholEdu started in the summer of 2011 and was a required program for all incoming freshmen. Dr. Kim Greenway, director of student conduct, said it was designed, in part, to gather information about freshman drinking habits and perceptions as they enter college.

“(AlcoholEdu) is a unique attempt to understand what students expect about drinking and address that in a healthy way,” she said. “We’re not out there to say ‘Alcohol is a terrible thing.’ We want to educate on what the misuses of alcohol can cause.”

Greenway released some numbers showing that UNA may not align with national trends observed by the CDC.

Greenway said 58 percent of incoming freshmen have had at least a sip of alcohol. Out of the same population, 61 percent said they have never participated in binge drinking, and 70 percent said it’s never acceptable on school nights.

The statistics, according to sophomore Lauren Esslinger, aren’t surprising. Drinking, for Esslinger, has not appeared to be a problem before or during college.

“I just thought drinking would be more prevalent in certain places,” Esslinger said. “If you wanted to partake in it you could, but it wouldn’t be shoved in your face if you didn’t go looking for it.”

Senior and history major Stephen Jackson agrees with Esslinger.

“I figured it would be tame here because it’s a small town,” Jackson said. “Publically stating that you’re drinking is kind of taboo around here because it’s the Bible Belt. I figured there would be parties, but I thought they would be at parties off campus. I never thought of it like you would in a big city, or a big party school like LSU or Florida.”

UNA police Chief Bob Pastula credits the university with the attitude toward alcohol.

“It’s everybody’s part,” Pastula said. “It’s not just the police or any other department. It’s everyone’s participation.”

Pastula gives students credit for knowing when not to binge drink.

“Most students are responsible to know enough is enough and to designate a driver,” Pastula said. “I think our students take it more seriously than they do at other universities.”