Binge drinking not as healthy as thought

By Emily Senger

Each week binge drinking on campus has messy consequences. Drunken altercations with the law, intoxicated violence, alcohol induced relationship strife, regretful beer-goggle hook-ups and nasty hangovers can be requisite parts of the university experience.

University of Calgary professor Dr. Shervin Vakili will address some of the negative consequences of student binge drinking with a new study funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation. The two-part study will survey students about their drinking habits and test methods to curb binge drinking.

“There have been a lot of studies on binge drinking and its effects and what all these studies have shown is university students drink more than their non-university counterparts,” said Vakili.

Binge drinking is defined as drinking with the intent to get drunk. This is loosely defined as consumption of four or more drinks per sitting for females and five or more drinks for males.

Vakili explained that while binge drinking is a normalized practice in student culture, it is the number one health hazard for university students because of its range of negative consequences. Vakili noted a hangover can also mean missed classes and lower GPAs, and binge drinking can lead to drunk driving, fights, property damage and other acts a sober student wouldn’t dream of committing.

“People tend to engage more in unwanted or unplanned sex – activities and things you’re sorry about the next day,” said Vakili. “Because so many different things can happen it’s the number one health hazard.”

The initial part of the study will survey 1,500 students this month. Out of the initial population, 360 first-year students will participate in a long-term study using a method called social norming, which attempts to change attitudes and behavior. The students will receive information about binge drinking and then be questioned to determine if their attitude towards alcohol consumption changes. Results will be used to find new methods to reduce binge drinking.

“You’re treating the university students like adults,” explained Vakili. “You’re not telling them what to do. They’ll use the information they’re given as they see fit.”

Student Life plans to use the results of the study to encourage students to make positive choices.

“We’re excited about it because binge drinking is a concern across any university campus,” said Student Life Coordinator Alison Woloshyn. “It affects success, and it’s our job to help students succeed.”

The Students’ Union agrees binge drinking is an issue, in particular with first year students who are drinking for the first time.

“It isn’t the biggest problem with drinking on campus,” said SU Vice-President Events Alex Vyskocil. “It’s drinking responsibly, everything from getting home safely to not fighting. It’s about being in control.”

Vyskocil added the SU will use the results of the study in future alcohol awareness week events.

The initial phase of the survey is available to all U of C students online. All students who fill out the survey will be entered into a draw to win cash prizes.

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