From A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol

Binge drinking refers to individuals who set out to get drunk on a given occasion by drinking five or more drinks in the course of a short period of time (e.g., over the course of two hours).  Binge drinking is quite common in both high schools and colleges.  Almost 30% of high school students have engaged in binging.  Many colleges report rates as high as 60%.  There are times when individuals will plan to binge drink (e.g., Let’s go out and get hammered!).  However, there are numerous occasions where individuals will only plan on having a drink or two, but get carried away by drinking games, parties that get out of hand or someone buys a round of drinks, etc.  Binge drinking has serious risks.

Consider these quotes from a sample of college students:

I went to a fraternity party off campus. I had at least 12 shots of liquor and two mixed drinks. That night, I went home with this guy I did not know… The guy and his roommates carried me home. I went to the hospital for alcohol poisoning and rape. I blacked out. I never pressed charges because he used the condom in my wallet.

In a crowded party, I accidently nudged someone. I apologized but the guy hit me anyway, making my mouth bleed.

I was having a great night. I drank at least 15 beers. Then I blacked out. This is not unusual for me. Another time, I became violent, smashed bottles and got in tons of trouble.

A girl I know got so drunk that a friend and I had to carry her for several blocks, trying to keep her from burning us with a cigarette. Since then, she has gotten as drunk every weekend.

These accounts sound shocking, but chances are they have happened to your son or daughter or someone he or she knows. These experiences alone should convince you of the potential risks of binge drinking. Binge drinkers are more likely to have been insulted by others, been in a serious argument or quarrel, been pushed, hit or assaulted, had one’s property damaged, put themselves in situations where they are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, been injured or had life threatening experiences, driven while intoxicated or rode in a car with an intoxicated driver. We also know that perpetrators target individuals that are incapacitated by alcohol. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted no matter how much they drink.

You need to emphasize to your son or daughter how powerful a drug alcohol can be and how quickly binge drinking can lead to dangerous results. By discussing the reasons why students drink, why students choose not to drink, and the basis of good relationships, and by providing your son or daughter with skills on how to resist pressures from others, you will be helping your student develop the foundations that are necessary to reduce the probability of binge drinking.

Reasons for Binge Drinking

Research suggests that individuals tend to binge drink for many reasons. Some of these include:

  • Binge drinkers tend to have generally positive expectations about the types of activities where binge drinking is more likely to take place (e.g., bars, fraternity/sorority parties). Some of the more commonly held beliefs include: I will be able to meet new people, I might meet potential sexual partners, and I will get to hang out with my friends.
  • Binge drinkers tend to agree with many of the reasons why students drink indicated earlier (e.g., drinking adds to a celebration, improves mood).
  • Binge drinkers tend to disagree with many of the reasons why some students do not drink indicated earlier (e.g., drinking makes you sick).
  • Binge drinkers tend to believe that there is nothing else to do but go get drunk on weekends and associate with others who hold the same belief.
  • Binge drinkers tend to associate with others who tend to binge drink (e.g., Everyone at my age is doing it, My friends will think I am strange if I do not drink, It can’t be that bad if everyone is doing it).

A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol
By Rob Turrisi, Ph.D.
Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University
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Note: No part of this text can be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.