By Kristian Schooler | LSU Student
During the month of April, traditionally designated Alcohol Awareness Month, campus health officials have a message for the students of Louisiana State University, where drinking and driving rates are twice as high as the national average: Evaluate your alcohol consumption habits to prevent future damage to life and limb.
High risk drinking, also known as "binge drinking" is a huge public health problem among American colleges, according to LSU Health Promotion Coordinator Ian Wang.
Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08 percent or more, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "This pattern of drinking usually corresponds to 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or four or more drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within about two hours."
"Binge drinking is dangerous and potentially fatal," Wang said. "According to the 2011 LSU Core Survey, 31.8 percent of students did something that they regretted as a consequence of their drinking."
"Students can get alcohol poisoning and can get into automobile accidents if they drive after drinking," Wang added. "Driving after drinking is a huge problem."
"Drinking and driving rates at LSU are around twice the national average," Wang said. "On a national level, 15.2 percent of students drive after drinking alcohol, while 31.5 percent of LSU students reported drinking and driving."
Reasons for this maybe that long walking distances and crowded buses influence the decision to drink and drive, Wang added, as well as misunderstandings about how impaired you have to be for driving to be dangerous.
It's important to consider that many variables play into what is considered high risk drinking, including weight, gender, stress, immunity level, medications, hydration and dependence, Wang said.
"Everybody is different and have unique variables to high risk drinking," Wang added. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
That being said, it is important to note that the majority, 64 percent of LSU students, does not engage in binge drinking, Wang said. Furthermore, approximately 19 percent of LSU students do not drink at all.
"Alcohol consumption, unlike smoking and drug use, is socially accepted, and may even be encouraged among some campus organizations," Wang said.
"Most students start drinking before coming to college," Wang said. "Colleges inherit students' drinking patterns."
Some long-term effects of heavy, extensive drinking include neurological, cardiovascular, psychiatric, social and cirrhosis problems, Wang said.
To develop responsible alcohol consumption habits, try to eat food before drinking, set a limit on the number of drinks and stick to it, go out with a group of friends and watch out for each other, know your limits and alternate non-alcoholic beverages with alcohol drinks, Wang said.
Don't accept drinks from strangers or rides from intoxicated people, Wang added. Don't chug alcohol, never leave your drink unattended, learn to refuse alcohol, and don't mix alcohol with medication.
Wang supports bystander intervention. "I encourage students to help each other," he said.
"If you see someone passed out and unresponsive, call for help. Don't just ignore it," Wang added. If you have a friend who is drunk, don't let them go home with someone.
Alcohol Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise understanding of alcohol abuse and encourage people to make healthy, safe choices, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.