Freshmen quickly adopt binge drinking

April 06, 1995|By Medical Tribune News Service

Freshmen who enroll in colleges where many students engage in binge drinking are quick to adopt the binge-drinking lifestyle, according to a survey released yesterday.

In the survey of 720 freshmen, 41 percent of those who said they did not binge drink in high school began drinking heavily shortly after arriving at colleges known for their "party" atmosphere.

The findings come on the heels of a national study by the same researchers, which showed that almost half of U.S. college students are frequent heavy drinkers -- leading to serious health problems and other consequences for themselves and other students.

In men, binge drinking is defined as at least five alcoholic drinks on one or two occasions in the past two weeks. For women, the number of drinks was put at four, because of their smaller bodies and differences in metabolism, said Henry Wechsler, who directed the survey and is director of college alcohol studies at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Although only 6 percent of students surveyed said they had anticipated getting drunk during their freshman year, about half of the freshmen reported having done so one or more times in the month before the survey, he said.

Eighty-four percent of the freshmen, who attended 13 colleges across the United States that are known to have a high degree of binge drinking, said they viewed alcohol abuse as a problem on their campus.

Colleges in the Northeast and North Central states have the highest rates of student drinking, while those in the West have the lowest rates, according to Mr. Wechsler.

Mr. Wechsler called the survey results "very disturbing," pointing out that all the freshmen considered alcohol very easy to obtain and most were not asked for proof of age before being served alcohol.

"That tells me we're kidding ourselves if we think minimum drinking-age laws keep kids from getting drunk," he said. "Parents need to pay close attention to the binge-drinking levels on campuses and support college administrators who are fighting to stop binge drinking."

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