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Alcohol Abuse and the Silent Toll on Students

by Rose Brennan & Alyssa Velazquez

Assistant Editor & Editor

Drinking culture is considered a prominent part of almost any college student’s social life, and Manhattan College is no exception.  But serious consequences can occur when students do not drink responsibly.

In the year 2015, the college reported 163 liquor violations on campus. 161 of these incidents occurred in residence halls. These numbers show a decrease in incidents in 2014, which showed 251 total reported liquor violations.

While violations of liquor laws are slowly decreasing at the college, incidents involving alcohol are still persisting on campus.  The two most common problems are underage drinking and binge drinking.

According to a study done by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, full-time college students aged 18-20 are significantly more likely to have used alcohol in the past month or to have binged compared to their peers not enrolled full time.

New York state law prohibits people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol.

“Individuals under 21 years of age may not possess or consume alcoholic beverages, nor may individuals over 21 years of age furnish alcoholic beverages to those less than 21 years of age,”  the law says.

The college operates in compliance with these standards, as illustrated in the Student Code of Conduct.

Standard college policy states that first-time offenders will receive a fine and parental notification, among other consequences if deemed necessary.  However, consequences prove more severe if repeat offenses occur.

According to Andrew Weingarten, Director of Residence Life, such consequences are aimed toward rehabilitation as opposed to punishment.

“A lot of it is geared toward education: supporting students learning and realizing the fact that college students might make mistakes now and then,” said Weingarten. “The whole process in our work here serves to help educate them around that.”

Even after upperclassmen turn 21 and are allowed to legally consume alcohol, problems surrounding drinking can still arise.  Of-age students can be at risk for high-risk practices such as binge drinking.

According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, “binge drinking” is defined as five or more drinks over the course of a few hours for males and four or more drinks for females.  Furthermore, excessive alcohol use is linked to health issues such as cancer, birth defects, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancies.

“Excessive intoxication is not good for you. It’s risky. A lot of bad things can come from it. So I’m just as much concerned about someone over 21 drinking excessively or misusing alcohol as I am about someone under 21 even using alcohol,” said Weingarten.

Binge-drinking is often considered a way of socializing in college, as alcohol consumption is highest among students active in Greek life according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, but there can be underlying issues that lead to students abusing alcohol.

According to Shawn Ladda, Ph.D., a kinesiology professor at the college, drinking is often practiced so that a student can fit in.

“In college it might be that somebody is trying to fit in because that is what their peers are doing, so they want to fit in. They might be experiencing anxiety related to doing well in academics, time management, and they seek out alcohol as a coping mechanism,” she said.

Drinking alcohol is often perceived as a way to relieve the academic and social pressures of college, but it is not the most effective way due to consequences or patterns that can develop later in life. Students will be more vulnerable to becoming dependent on alcohol after they graduate from college through participating in activities such as binge-drinking while still in school.

As an effort to combat binge-drinking on campus, the college community has seen an increase in extracurricular activities and events that allow the students to socialize without the need to consume alcohol.

Though these extracurricular activities are proving to be successful, Weingarten maintains his belief that the most important aspect of college is getting an education.

“You’re here for a reason; you’re paying good money for it. And to be drinking under 21 or to be misusing alcohol at any age is going to result in problems,” he said.

For students who continue to struggle with alcohol use disorders (AUDs), there are many support networks available, including counseling, health services and even a chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, which meets on campus once a week.

“This is a college where a lot of good support and help is in place if you think you have a problem with it,” Weingarten said.

Any students who feel they may be experiencing alcohol-related problems are urged to contact any of the several student resource centers on campus.

FACTS OF THE MATTER

49 percent of Bronx County adults report any alcohol use in the past month. Out of those who drink, 36 percent report binge drinking.

“Binge” drinking is described as five or more drinks over the course of a few hours for a male and four or more drinks for females.

Excessive alcohol use is linked to many health issues including cancer, birth defects, STIs, and unplanned pregnancies.

Over half of Bronx youth usually consume liquor.

About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.

About 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

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