Aggieville: a prime location for college students to blow off steam after a long week’s work. However, the atmosphere often encourages excessive drinking, aka binge drinking, which can lead to many other issues.
What is binge drinking?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above.”
Chaz Mailey, psychologist at the K-State Counseling Services and the alcohol and other drug education services coordinator, said that binge drinking has been around for a long time.
“Binge drinking is not an uncommon term, but maybe one that’s growing in popularity as far as like being heard more often now because they’re trying to bring more attention to it,” Mailey said.
In order to have a BAC of 0.08 grams percent or above, women usually must consume four or more drinks and men must consume five or more drinks in about a two-hour span, according to the institute.
Mailey said some dangerous side effects of binge drinking include hangovers, blackouts and impaired motor skills.
How prevalent is it in Manhattan?
Though Jessica Ptak, senior in nutrition and health and bartender at Rambler’s Steak House, rarely sees college students at the restaurant’s bar, she does notice instances of binge drinking amongst adults.
“There were these ladies that came in (who) had been there before I got there and stayed for a couple of hours (that) were so hammered,” Ptak said. “One lady sat on the side of the bar with her husband, but told me she was waiting on other guys to pick her up.”
Julie Gibbs, director of health promotion at Lafene Health Center, said contrary to popular belief, not all college students are binge drinking.
Role of education
Gibbs said according to the numbers from AlcoholEdu for College, the alcohol education program all incoming freshmen are required to take, 58 percent of K-State students do not drink at all. She said that while the binge drinking phenomenon exists, it’s not as prevalant in the K-State community – largely due to the awareness created by AlcoholEdu.
The program doesn’t tell students to not drink, but rather gives people the information and educational tools to see the consequences of drinking too much, the signs of alcohol poisoning and other related effects involving drinking.
According to Gibbs, if you do drink, it’s very important to practice conscious drinking.
Impact of binge drinking
According to Gibbs, how much drinking can hurt someone depends on a lot of factors, including tolerance level, weight and gender. The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among woman, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If you’re binge drinking, obviously taking in a lot in a short amount of time, you’re more likely to develop problems down the road as well as having problems during binging,” Gibbs said. “You’re more likely to get in trouble, which could include getting a DUI or obtaining STDs if you’re having sex under the influence. Studies show that about (one-third) of all traffic accidents involve alcohol.”
A World Health Organization report said that there are about 2.5 million deaths each year that directly resulted from the harmful use of alcohol.
Project Accessing Behaviors for Change works with different on campus organizations to help students, who have been referred by a judicial board, an administrative resolution or a greek chapter, for violating an alcohol and drug conduct codes.
Michael Dreiling, coordinator for the project, said binge drinking can alter someone’s sleep from anywhere between two to three days at least. “Passing out” or falling asleep quickly is common with someone who has been binge drinking, and oftentimes people wake up way earlier than normal and can’t fall back asleep.
“You’ve disrupted your deep sleep cycle, so it’s going to be really hard to get back on track,” Dreiling said.
When it comes to students, the amount of sleep lost on the weekends due to binge drinking is often not made up during the week.
How and where to get help?
Students struggling with binge drinking can go to K-State Counseling Services and speak with Mailey, who helps students come up with moderation plans that seek to teach how to limit drinks and not over-consume alcohol.
According to Mailey, the plans limit the number of nights student go out and drink per week, as well as help them avoid problematic behaviors like drinking games or pre-gaming.
“I know it’s kind of a challenge because one of the things I hear students talk about is that there’s not a lot of options for things for them to do that don’t involve drinking,” Mailey said.
Project ABC helps students compare their drinking behaviors with their peers and other ways to process their drinking habits.
“We are who our friends are,” Dreiling said. “We are the average of all of our friends.”
Dreiling said if students are hanging out with people who binge drink all the time, they will eventually assume it’s what everyone is doing and that it’s not a big deal.
“I think it has to do with the drinking culture and I think drinking culture is varies from campus to campus and region to region,” Mailey said.
According to Mailey, many college students coming in as freshmen have already had their first experiences with alcohol.
“The earlier you engage in drinking and binge drinking in general, the more likely (you’re) to experience some type of problem the older you get,” Dreiling said.
A lot of campuses are taking on the idea of harm reduction.
“We know that students are going to do this, so how can you make good choices if that’s something that you are choosing to do,” Mailey said.
If drinking on the weekends is inevitable, it is important to know how to do it safely and what the consequences are for behaviors like binge drinking. Students do not need to get caught up in the idea of shark night and Aggieville in order to have a good time.