Required alcohol education programs educate college students on risks of binge drinking

unnamedUniversities have highlighted the issue of binge drinking by requiring incoming freshmen students to complete alcohol education programs such as AlcoholEdu and Haven. According to the DePaul University student affairs website, the university is one of hundreds of institutions nationwide requiring every member of their first year class to complete these programs.

Eastern Illinois University paired with AlcoholEdu to perform a study to see if there was a decrease with heavy drinking after students started taking the Alcoholedu course.

(Graphic by Lauren Johnson / The DePaulia)

The study showed a 34 percent decrease in heavy drinking, from 2006-2014, after introducing AlcoholEdu to the students.

Although the requirements to complete these types of safety courses exist at universities in the United States, and it has proven to have some decrease of heavy alcohol intake, the question is whether or not students treat these programs seriously.

In a city where Sunday brunch is so popular it is almost considered a sport, college students and young professionals flock to Chicago’s best brunch spots, to fill up champagne flutes with all-you-can-drink mimosas, and indulge in a glob of carbo-loaded pa

ncakes to soak up the shame of binge drinking from the night before.

Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use also poses major health risks. Young people in Chicago and across the country are exposed to a number of health and safety risks when they binge drink. Despite these well known risks, many young people doubt they’ll personally fall victim to the dangers connected with high levels of intoxication. 

Columbia College graduate Danielle Cole is among those young people.

“The amount of harmful effects that can happen to someone because of a night of binge drinking is pretty high, but at the same time no one ever thinks something as bad as death will happen to them,” Cole said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. Consuming this much alcohol in a short period of time can leave a person with an unthinkable consequence: the CDC studies reports that excessive alcohol use leads to 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

So many fatal incidences of binge drinking are shocking, but often not enough to curb alcohol abuse.

“To most people a death statistic is just a number,” Cole said. “It’s not something that will happen to them or one of their friends and I think that is what is really terrifying about this type of drinking within our generation.”

Not all acts of binge drinking lead to fatality. However, there is still an outrageous amount of short and long-term consequences that binge drinking results in.

According to the CDC, “Short term health risks include injuries from motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, and burns; violent acts including suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence; alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels; risky sexual behaviors including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.”

The prevalence of binge drinking among adults in Illinois is between 18.2-24.9 percent, according to CDC. This proportion shows that the intake of alcoholic beverages is an issue across the state of Illinois, but especially at colleges and universities where drinking is extremely prevalent. 

DePaul senior Tierney McDonald said the AlcoholEdu program did little to change her views on the risks of binge drinking.

“I remember having to take the AlcoholEdu course before being able to attend DePaul,” McDonald said. “It was one of those things that was required for us to listen to and answer questions for, but I remember not paying attention to it all that much. It basically said we were all alcoholics and so we just laughed about it, other than that I don’t recall that much from the rest of the course.”

McDonald is not alone. As the Eastern Illinois University study found, many students continue to binge drink after completing alcohol education programs. The 34 percent decrease, however, shows that the courses have had a positive impact on curbing the amount of students abusing alcohol.