Despite Efforts Over the Years, Heavy Drinking Among Students Remains Steady
The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29
Campus efforts to raise students' understanding of the hazards of alcohol abuse ramped up through the 1980s and have since tapered off. Nonetheless, the incidence of heavy drinking among students has remained relatively steady—and a cause for concern—for the past three decades, said a speaker at the annual conference of ACPA—College Student Educators International.
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This is a continuation of thoughts noted in my previous post

Collegiate drinking is nothing if not a perennial problem and has been since Harvard opened “Butteries” in the 18th century J Interestingly, the reason that collegiate drinking rates wax and wane, often in sync with available funding to address “problem collegiate drinking” is because we focus on the problem primarily and to a much lesser degree, on the solution.

Interestingly, when we do look at the “solution” it is the solution to the collegiate drinking problem—and we have made substantial headway in this area over the past 20 years…environmental management, social norms, social marketing, BASICS, etc. The issue is that these strategies continue to focus on the minority of students associated directly with the problems cause by collegiate drinkers, that is the “binge drinkers.” What we to this point have never addressed is a consideration of the solution as to how to motivate the majority of college students who are moderate in their drinking if not abstainers to become more proactive in their interactions with peers. In short, how do we learn why moderate drinkers and abstainers approach alcohol and drinking as they do so as to support and/or advance those student characteristics…to move towards what we want rather than always try and avoid/stop if not flee what we do not want. Instead of talking about collegiate drinking in the positive/proactive way, that is, why is moderation the norm for drinkers and/or why do abstainers abstain, all our attention goes to the “problem.” It is like asking someone, continually, for decades, to “not think about pink elephants with purple spots!....guess what they are thinking about?

The classic example of what I am suggesting is the shift in social norms regarding cigarette smoking. EVERYWHERE you went in the early 60s had ash trays and often matches. Good hosts and hostesses even offered guests cigarettes—you can even see the armrest ashtrays on older planes! 50 years later—and this is the key to this change 50 year—not only is this not the case, people cannot smoke in most public spaces and must stand a minimum distance from the main entrances to such buildings if they do choose to smoke.

Such changes take time as do any time we set out to change the culture in a demonstrable way. To change the way alcohol and drinking are viewed in higher ed is no small task and will take years if not decades, but we are not a patient field and lose interest and motivation to “do something” soon after the soft state or federal money disappears.

I can go on and on about this…you can read “a little more” about this in my previous post or you can read “a lot more” in the 2nd and 3rd volumes of my monograph series, “When They Drink” – see

Dr. robert


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