Party Hearty or Party Smart: Drinking in College

By Patricia Gorden Neill - June 28th, 2013

The stories of campus drinking binges, alcohol on campus and partying in college are everywhere. It’s common, even if it is frowned upon. When students first go off to college, they’re usually 18 years old, three years away from drinking legally. Yet most of these college students will drink, at least now and then. All college administrations acknowledge that underage students drink and that efforts to clamp down on it are usually unsuccessful. What can be done is educating students about the dangers of alcohol and too much partying.

If you’re a college freshman, the temptation to party will be great. And of course, at times, you’ll jump right in. College is an exciting time with the newfound freedom of deciding what you’ll do and when. Gradually, most students do learn to balance freedom and responsibility, but the many that don’t will often stumble that first semester. Alcohol use and abuse can and will cause a great deal of disruption in your college career unless and until you learn to handle it responsibly.

Learn to Moderate

Party smart by learning to moderate any drinking you decide to do. You’ll eventually hear all the tips and tricks, but here’s a few to get you started on the right road:

  • Eat before you going out to a party. Drinking on an empty stomach means the alcohol will get into your bloodstream that much faster. Eat during the party as well.
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with water or soft drinks. This alone will save you some hangovers.
  • Never drink and drive. Don’t get into a car when the driver has been drinking. Be smart, and save your own and others’ lives.
  • Go out to parties with friends and return with those same friends. Watch out for your friends and have them watch out for you. This is most important for college women, but it pertains to men as well. Anyone can be sexually harassed or assaulted.
  • Pour your own drinks, keep an eye on your drink and don’t accept drinks from strangers. Date rape drugs abound around college campuses.
  • Find a balance between your academics and social life. This is imperative for a successful college career. Drink moderately.

Dangerous Drinking

In 2009, the U.S. government released some figures about college drinking and its effects:

  • 1,800 students died from alcohol-related injuries.
  • 600,000 college students received unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
  • 97,000 students reported date rape and sexual assault while drinking. This is only the number reported, not that number that actually occurred since many students don’t report the crime.
  • 25 percent of college students admitted that they received lower grades from missed classes and doing badly on exams due to excessive drinking.

While it is OK to party occasionally, keep in mind that excessive drinking can have adverse effects such as doing badly academically, failing health, social embarrassment, flunking out, injury, arrest for DUI and even death.

Sexual Assault and Date Rape

The dangers of college drinking are highlighted for women when it comes to sexual assault and date rape, but even men can be victims. Nearly 100,000 college women a year report sexual assault and date rape. While alcohol is undoubtedly the premiere date rape drug, other known date rape drugs are often found around college campuses. Rohypnol, GHB and ketamine are odorless, tasteless and colorless and they dissolve quickly in drinks. The effects of these drugs are enhanced when mixed with alcohol and people who are drugged with them can react quickly, often in 15 minutes.

College women should arm themselves with knowledge of how party rapists operate. These men try to separate friends to get their victims alone and they push drinks on the women, enticing them to drink more than they would otherwise. Here are some tactics college women can use to avoid these men and their traps:

  • Go out to parties with friends and check up on them throughout the night. Go home with the same friends. Keep an eye out for each other.
  • Don’t drink mixed punches, or be very careful with this type of drink. You don’t know how high the alcohol content is.
  • Never leave your drink unattended. If it happens accidentally, throw it out and get a fresh drink.
  • Stay in public places that are well-lit with other people around.
  • Know how to get home. When you go out, take a working cell phone and money for a cab ride home.
  • Trust your instincts. If someone gives you the creeps, get away from them. You don’t have to be polite to someone who is making you uncomfortable.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.