By Amanda Cavoto
The concept of binge drinking fosters misconceptions across college campuses.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern that increases one’s blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 g/dL. Generally, this happens when men consume five or more drinks, or when women consume four or more drinks in about two hours.
The stereotypical perception against college students is that they drink, and they drink a lot.
“Students come to college already with that misconception around alcohol use,” says Sarah Keiser, coordinator of alcohol and drug services.
The misconception that everyone is drinking all the time at college stems from multiple pre-conceived falsehoods.
The glamorization of binge drinking through media like, “Mean Girls” or “Neighbors,” portrays a typical college party where everyone overdrinks, can pull incoming freshmen away from the reality of college.
Being new, or maybe not so new, on campus, can leave an anxiety in students to fit in and make some friends. Tyler Pelletier, a junior, social work major, refers to drinking as a “social lubricator.” Drinking makes people feel like it is easier to interact with new people, he says. Alcohol breaks down inhibitors in the brain that act as a filter for thoughts. When someone consumes alcohol, that filter goes away, leaving results unpredictable.
Specifically, for college freshmen or transfers, it can be hard to juggle a brand-new environment with nearly nothing the same as before.
“A lot of college students are figuring themselves out,” says Pelletier.
In order to help aid the new chapter jitters, Keiser and Pelletier recommend becoming involved.
With over 100 organizations, activities and events on campus, people are going out to party a lot less than an outsider might think.
“People think there is nothing else to do, but there really is a lot to do,” Keiser says.
Of course, like all things, there is an exception and there are students who do go out drinking regularly.
“Free time” plays a significant role in choosing to engage in binge drinking with peers, according to Pelletier.
“I know a lot of people don’t know what to do, [so they will] go grab a drink,” he says.
For Keiser, there is no singular pin point for why a student might turn to binge drinking.
“[There are a] multitude of factors around the difference between drinking and binge drinking,” says Keiser.
College students carry a lot of stressors; financial, academic and family responsibilities can leave students overwhelmed. This can result in binge drinking as a fast fix to manage all of that.
Without coping strategies, binge-drinking can become a college student’s main source of stress relief.
Pelletier says, “[people say] ‘I’m bored here, I’m stressed here, I’m depressed here,’ you’re discontent with where you are.”
So yes, while the movies show the happy drunk, they tend to leave out the most important ending of binge drinking.
“Who actually posts the picture of them[selves] throwing up over the toilet,” says Pelletier. “They post a picture of themselves at the bar beforehand.”
The typical social media post of a binge drinker shows everything before the consequences.
College students so heavily associate drinking with fun that the thought of leaving it behind gives off the impression of having all the joy and recreation in their life stop at recovery.
“There is school, parties, nothing in-between” says Pelletier. “[Fun] is so associated that it prolongs getting help.”
The fearing of missing out correlates strongly with why some students do not seek help, and SCSU Collegiate Recovery Community wants to change that.
According to their website, SMART Recovery encourages a holistic approach, with the goal being to achieve a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
The community uses tools based on scientific-proven methods for addiction recovery, such as cognitive behavior techniques and motivational interviewing, without requiring life time attendance.
The program recognizes the challenges of accessibility to recovery among college campuses and has worked to create a place for students to feel supported and share their stories right here at SCSU.
Pelletier stressed the importance of “anecdotal evidence” when it comes to bridging the gap to recovery.
The importance of the anecdotes is partially because it emphasizes that addiction “doesn’t discriminate,” and there are no physical identifications of an addict.
Stigma, stemming from either internal, social, or institutional beliefs, can act as a significant barrier when it comes to college students seeking help. Falling into these falsehoods can leave students feeling invalid in seeking help because they do not meet these pre-conceived ideas of addiction.
“[They think] ‘I’m not that, so I don’t need the help they need,’” Pelletier says.
Shifting the stigma around addiction, according to Keiser, is the key element to showing recovery is possible.
“Recovery group communities show the positive side of recovery and the things that can be accomplished,” says Keiser.
“I am stronger than ever. I realized everyone’s journey is different. All you need is the will to get better and the dedication to do so,” states a student in the collegiate recovery program, according to a pamphlet for the group. “If you are seeking treatment or need a support system, SCSU is working hard at developing a program that will give you a place to share your story and thrive.”
Then, comes more power from the anecdotes, showing that there are many faces of addiction and many routes of recovery. There are many different support options for addiction including in-patient and out-patient programs, half-way houses, AA meetings, the SMART Recovery meetings and more.
Pelletier says, “People need to feel like they can express their recovery.”
But recovery is not simple, and according to Pelletier, someone is always recovering, not recovered.
Support is a key role in recovery. The sun at the end of the storm comes from not only the person recovering, but through the vital role of ally support.
The idea of being proud to be in recovery can shift the stigma and humble people that think it cannot happen to them.
Addiction impacts many students and families on campus. Shaming or hiding these issues further builds the barrier to getting help and stopping these issues in its tracts. Being a peer-support offers hope and ends the shame of receiving help—a bravery too often overlooked.