Students Know Alcohol Wellness

This week is National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. Can you imagine? A whole week for college students to pay more attention to alcohol. It may come as no surprise that this week is co-sponsored by Coors, Bud and Miller. Despite the misnomer, many colleges use this week to focus on alcohol wellness and preventing alcohol abuse to varying degrees of success. At Health Enhancement Services, we use this week as an opportunity to correct collegiate alcohol misawareness.

I teach “The Alcohol Class” here at NIU (AHP201). Over the years, I have grown increasingly concerned about the street mythology which accompanies student alcohol use. A common and unfortunate misperception is that students do not actively participate in their own alcohol wellness. I have often heard, “Responsible drinking just happens. Over time you outgrow bad drinking habits.” Or “Responsible drinking happens by luck.” Not usually. Sure, occasionally someone accidentally develops a responsible relationship with alcohol. However, almost all responsible drinkers have healthy relationships with alcohol because they pay attention to their drinking and take care to avoid risks. More than half of all college students and nearly two thirds at NIU, limit their drinking to avoid alcohol related harm. The strategies NIU students have described in my class include:

Other activities when partying besides drinking. “If I’m dancing, playing pool, or shooting baskets, I don’t drink as much.” Alternating non-alcohol drinks with alcohol. “I always drink a 7up or glass of water between each drink.”

Drinking only light beer. “I always limit myself to five light beers. That way I still drink all through the party but I don’t get wasted.” Avoid drinking games. “Drinking games are for rookies. Their only purpose is to get stupid. They sure do that.” Staying away from party punches. “It’s too hard to know how much you are drinking when you drink from punch bowl. It’s usually so sweet you can’t taste the alcohol until it comes back up.” Never do shots. “Doing shots gets into macho stuff, ‘I can do more shots than you can.’ You get drunk before you know what happened. Shots and drinking games are the two ways guys get women drunk and take advantage of them.”

Many college students make a special effort to drink safely and protect themselves from harm. It is important to recognize and commend these students. They are everywhere around us. Perhaps a better name for this week would be “National Collegiate Alcohol Wellness Week”. Keep up the good work NIU. You are healthier than you realize!