Alcohol awareness should focus on moderation, not extremes
The Vanguard Vision
November 1, 2010 —
Within the last month, colleges across the country sponsored events, activities and speakers to observe National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. The goal of this initiative is to alert young adults to their high risk for alcohol problems and to provide them with information for making educated decisions regarding alcohol consumption.
Much of the campus conversation on alcohol consumption seems to focus on the extremes: the dangers of alcohol abuse and the virtue of total sobriety. Students are warned about the health and legal problems that could result from binge drinking at college parties, and they are urged to participate in alcohol-free activities and events on campus.
Of course, alcohol is not necessarily a prerequisite for having a good time. This week, students socialized and sipped “mocktails” while participating in Halloweenthemed activities at Friday’s Monster Mash. New pregame activities also provide fun sober for football tailgaters. These events offer a valuable alternative for students wishing to avoid alcohol.
Realistically, many college students will experiment with alcohol, and they need to know how to do so responsibly. The consumption of alcohol in a party atmosphere is inevitable for some considering the nature of the living arrangements and campus atmosphere.
Students enrolling in college for the first time grow in many different ways, and how they handle the pressures of weekend party situations is not excluded in that growth process. Responsibility develops through growth and experience, and stressing the idea that drinking as a concept is exclusively harmful can be harmful in itself.
The result of many campus programs designated to educate students on alcohol use and abuse often turns into a demonstration of fear through facts and examples rather than an interactive and reasonable presentation to college students.
Some programs, such as CHOICES first offense alcohol education and BASICS for repeat offenders or those with MIPs, do address responsible drinking habits but only after an incident has occurred. These programs help students realize that the drinking habits they once thought reasonable were, in fact, irresponsible. It can be a necessary reality check for young people learning the nature of alcohol and how much is too much.
If we expect students to begin drinking responsibly early on, they need more than facts and statistics – they need experience. Students need peers and older adults to model responsible, moderate drinking behaviors to them. Rather than focusing on the extremes of either abstaining or getting completely wasted, moderation can become the focus of informative discussions.