Binge Drinking: Changing Perceptions

October 24, 2003 -- Posted at 10:45pm

JONESBORO, AR - If you ask nearly any student on a collegiate campus is most of their fellow classmates consume alcohol every weekend, they'll likely say 'yes'. "Well we see it a lot late at night when they come from parties," said Terrance Crump.

Some would also agree that many co-eds are binge drinkers; meaning they have 5 or more drinks over the course of 1 evening. Kylie Wickerham, an Arkansas State University senior, said "Just at parties. You don't see too many times people going out and having 1 drink and stopping." Aaron Howard, also a senior, added, "I think that's a problem at pretty much all campuses you would go to. I don't know if it's an age thing, or a maturity thing, but college seems to be the time in life where you try to explore."

Those students' perceptions are incorrect. A recent voluntary survey showed that 81% of ASU students admit to consuming alcohol, but only one third of those actually think they binge drink.

"When they look around and they see the attention-getters, they tend to think there's a lot of drinking on campus, but if you ask people anonymously, and they report their own drinking behavior, they're far below what they believe is the average," explained Dr. Phil Hestand, Director of Student Counseling and Psychological Services Center at ASU.

The same misconceptions are present at most college campuses. Experts believe that by spreading this corrected information to students across the country, co-eds will realize the 'norm' is one of safety, responsibility and moderation.

Dr. Hestand added, "The average ASU student is not a heavy drinker. The average ASU student does not drink every weekend."

The social norms method is being used at about 135 colleges and universities with success. Dr. Hestand is hoping the program will dry up ASU students' misinformation about alcohol too.