College Binge Drinking
It is a Friday night and it is just creeping up on 9:30 pm at Santa Clara University.
The guys are ready to go out, the girls are putting on their last touch ups and all the
alcohol for the evening’s festivities was purchased earlier in the afternoon. Groups
connect together and determine a place to drink and host a pre-party, or “pre-game,”
before going out to the actual party. Unlike the huge party that consists of hundreds of
people, little amounts of alcohol and does not start until around 11 pm, the pre-game gets
the drinking started earlier and only small amounts of friends can get their hands on the
large quantities of alcohol supplied.
It’s just a “casual” pre-game, though. By casual, students mean that mass
quantities of drinking ensue upon arriving to the pre-game. Shots of hard alcohol,
sometimes leading to straight mouth to bottle “pulls” of hard alcohol, and every beer
game known to man takes place for an hour and a half to sometimes two hours before
going out. This form of excessive drinking, which is better termed as “binge drinking,”
has been the tradition since our parents and their parents were young adults in the college
party scene, and it is still just as problematic.
Binge drinking has always gone hand in hand with the college party lifestyle, but
what lies beneath the social drinking is a future of alcohol dependency.
All across the country, college pre-games have become notoriously known for
absurd amounts of binge drinking throughout the time of the party. A person is
considered to be participating in the act of binge drinking when five or more drinks have
been consumed in one setting, in this case, a college pre-game party. “Five? My friends
and I have way more than five when we pre-game,” said Matt Baker, a Santa Clara
sophomore. “Binging should be considered to be eight to ten drinks because that’s
honestly how much people consume.”
One would think with this aggressive style of drinking taking place two,
sometime three, times a week that some form of alcohol dependency would form, right?
Wrong. In fact, many students brush off how much they drink while pre-gaming and
continue to drink (in smaller doses) at the main party. “It’s not unnatural for me to have
seven or eight shots and a couple beers at the pre-game and then have a few more shots at
the big party with everyone,” explained Emma, another Santa Clara student who is very
active in the vibrant party scene.
What students naively miss is that in many alcoholism cases the dependency
spawns from young adult and college binge drinking. In a recent study conducted by the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 35 percent of
adults with an alcohol problem developed symptoms such as binge drinking by the age
19. Because about four out of five college students drink, the risk of partaking in binge
drinking is higher and so is the risk of alcoholism.
So, what should be done? Are campus safety officers going to roam from dorm to
dorm and police officers go from house to house, making sure people under the legal age
are not drinking? After all, Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) researchers have
found that adults age 21 or older who had first used alcohol before age 21 were more
likely to be classified with alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who had their first
drink at age 21 or older.
However, some believe that dependency at this age is not the problem. Anna
Houk, a Santa Clara University certified Emergency Medical Technician, is more worried
about the commonplace binge drinking has taken on campus. “I don’t necessarily think
that students are becoming more dependent upon binge drinking, but it is more so that
binge drinking has become the social norm,” Houk explains.
As an EMT this year, Houk said she personally has responded to ten alcohol
related calls, out of the 96 alcohol calls – 48 resulting in a hospital transports – in total; a
number she commented as having gone up significantly since last year.
“Drinking begins as a social event, however consequences result when they
pursue this irresponsibility or without any regards to their personal tolerance or ability to
handle alcohol,” Houk says. “Many students just assume that if their friend can drink
that much then they can to.”
When asked if she thought this intense binge drinking would relate to alcohol
dependency down the road, Houk believes most students will eventually realize how
much they drink and how harmful it is. “For most people, they realize that they went past
their limit, and nothing about the situation the night before was worth it for it to happen
again,” Houk stated. “The risk certainly increases for those susceptible to alcoholism or
addiction, because college only supports this habit by accepting and encouraging
So what about the students who do not learn the lesson after the first transport?
The ones who have been hospitalized two and three times for alcohol over consumption.
Are they just numb minded and forget how much they can handle each time they drink or
is it something else?
“I think after various medical transports some sort of dependency begins to sink
in,” said Blake Harris, a Community Facilitator in the Dunne Residence Hall.
Unfortunately for Harris, he has had to be the one to call in many of these
transports because the kids are just too drunk. “I don’t like having to do it, but if these
transports can get students to realize they need to drink that much, that fast, and that
frequently, then it is worth it,” he commented.
When Harris heard the Houk’s statistics about EMT responses to calls, he was not
surprised. However, Harris feels that dependency can definitely begin from binge
drinking, regardless of the student. “I don’t think people have to be hereditarily
predisposed to alcoholism to get it,” Harris explained. “I’ve seen some of my best
friends begin to grow a dependency for alcohol from too much college binging and they
say their parents aren’t even big drinkers.”
Luckily, Santa Clara University has taken serious notice to this addictive
attraction and has tried to slow down the popularity. The Wellness Center of Santa Clara,
which is in relation to the SCU Cowell Health Center, has issued flyers around campus to
let students know the serious risks they take when binge drinking at a party. “Potty Talk”
is the name of the flyer and it contains all kinds of information regarding college
drinking. Facts about binge drinking, alcohol poisoning, and medical transports are given
and a new, updated version of the flyer is released once a month.
The Potty Talk flyers also give statistics on how alcohol intake can affect violence
and sexual harassment on campus and in the party scene. “The flyers (Potty Talk) are
super informative,” said Ryan Alverson, a sophomore Santa Clara student who lives off
campus. “I live off campus, but every time I come to school I come across an updated
flyer. It’s good to see the school making such a positive effort to decrease the level of
With comments of concern coming from both EMT and Community Facilitator
sources, it is apparent that college binge drinking is popular socially, but comes with
much baggage. Student medical transports have doubled from last year and they continue
to drink incredible amounts in a short time at the pre-game. It cannot be denied that there
is direct correlation between college binge drinking and alcoholism. Whether someone
comes from a family with alcoholics in it or not, if binge drinking becomes a weekly
occurrence the dependency for what is being drank with arrive and it will only be a
matter of time. Will binge drinking eventually fall off the map of college social life?
Probably not. However, students can help themselves and their friends by taking on a
night with only a few drinks in them at a pre-game, rather than twelve.
The true hope is more and more students will realize the risks associated with
binge drinking and clean up their acts, as they grow older in life.
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD)
Santa Clara University Wellness Center