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Binge Drinking

by Madison Rheam 3 years ago in college
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The Negative Effects on College Campuses

Over the past couple of years, binge drinking on residential college campuses has become an emerging problem. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse seen in college students (ages 18-24) causes about 1,700 deaths, 599,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault every year. Binge drinking occurs widely throughout our society but mostly occurs within the college setting. The pattern however reverses itself when it comes to which students are drinking. Studies have shown that the students who typically weren’t drinking in high school are now the ones that can’t stop drinking in college. Much of the problem relates back to the hazing that occurs at college fraternities and sororities. The levels of binge drinking amongst college students seem to be much higher in college settings with Greek organizations.

A lot of binge drinking cases stem from Greek life and the events that go along with it. The Greek life population doubled from 100,000 to 200,000 between 1970 and 1980. By the year 1990, Greek population surpassed 400,000. Fraternity insurance claims between 1987-1995 were looked at and 88% of the fatalities reported had alcohol involved in the incident. After a death caused by binge drinking during a bid ceremony at Penn State University’s fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, state government decided to step in. Pennsylvania state Senate approved a bill implying stronger restrictions on hazing at Greek organizations. The bill is named after the student, Timothy J. Piazza, who died from binge drinking at Beta Theta Pi. As part of initiation at Beta Theta Pi, the pledges were forced to chug a full bottle of vodka each. After Piazza finished the bottle he began staggering throughout the house and eventually tried to leave but couldn’t manage to get the door open. The ‘brothers’ flailed his limp body on the couch and shoved a backpack full of textbooks on him to keep him from choking on his own vomit. As Piazza came in and out of consciousness he tried getting up and fell down a flight of stairs. His fraternity brothers stepped over him, took snapchat videos of him, but never called 911 until 12 hours later. An autopsy of Piazza’s body confirmed that his blood toxicity level was four times the legal limit and he died from a fractured skull and ruptured spleen. Before the Timothy Piazza bill was passed, the current law only declared hazing as a crime if a serious bodily injury occurred that was connected to a sorority, fraternity, or student group initiation. The Timothy Piazza Law states that “hazing includes causing, coercing or forcing the consumption of alcohol or drugs." Hazing occurs not only at Penn State, but at colleges all around the country. Penn State University just happens to be the number one party school in the United States according to the Princeton Review party list.

Timothy Piazza (1997-2017)

The Harvard College Alcohol Study shows that 2 in 5 college students can be considered as binge drinkers. According to the same study, about 75% of Greek members binge drink. For further statistics, Harvard concluded that about 73% fraternity members and 57% sorority members are considered binge drinkers. Some of the concerns relating to binge drinking is alcohol poisoning or aspirating on one’s own vomit. An example of this was when a student had been hospitalized after a night of binge drinking because he later contracted pneumonia due to inhaling small particles from his own vomit. Students aren’t aware of the damage they’re doing to their bodies at the moment, they feel that heart disease and liver failure are decades away if they ever occur, but statistics show otherwise. An easy sign of brain damage is the effect many young adults have had: blackouts. Neuropsychologist, Scott Swartzwelder studied the effects of alcohol on the brain. He found that alcohol has a long-lasting effect in brain function because of adolescent binge drinking. The brain is most sensitive to binge drinking during the adolescent years where it seems to be most prevalent. During this time, excessive drinking can cause damage to the prefrontal cortex and limbic system. Studies have shown recently that the earlier adolescents practice binge drinking the more likely they are to become alcohol dependent as adults. Binge drinking in this case is the genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse. Another concern is the significant loss of neurons that stem from alcohol poisoning.

In 1997 during a hazing event, student Scott Krueger was participating in a movie night that included binge drinking. He was later found passed out the next morning with a blood toxicity level of 0.41, which is much higher than the legal limit. Scott eventually fell into a coma at the hospital and then died two days later. Binge drinking doesn’t only affect those who are underage. Bradley McCue was a student at Michigan State University that died of an alcohol overdose. The evening he turned 21 he went out drinking with his college friends. He wanted to drink his age in shots but had ended up taking 24 shots of hard liquor in total and falling into respiratory arrest shortly after.

Drinking too much while at college can also result in sexual assault and/or rape.

  • 50% of sexual assault cases on college campuses involve alcohol
  • 90% of rapes perpetrated by an acquaintance involve alcohol.
  • 43% of sexual assaults are caused from the victim drinking
  • 69% of sexual assaults are caused from the perpetrator drinking

Another concern with drinking are date rape drugs. A date rape drug is any drug that makes sexual assault and/or rape easier. Over 11 million women in the United States have been raped because of date rape drugs. The most commonly used date rape drugs or "club drugs" are flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), and ketamine. The best way to avoid being drugged is to never take a drink from someone you don't know, never leave your drink unattended, and if you receive a drink that seems tampered with always assume the worst.

These are just a few tragic stories of the true cost of binge drinking. I'm a college student myself so I'm not telling you to stop drinking. There's no fun in not drinking, but I'm just telling you to know your own limits. I don't want to see any of my fellow college students being assaulted, raped, or dead because they drank too much. So from a college student herself, I'm telling you to keep drinking, just don't drink too much at one time please.


About the author

Madison Rheam

HACC graduate with Associates Degree in Social Sciences, LGBTQ+, raging liberal, feminist.

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