The idea of college and binge drinking seem to go hand-in-hand. And to some, it may seem like no big deal. But in reality, it's a huge deal, a huge, potentially very dangerous deal. Although the legal drinking age is 21, we're not naive enough to think you will all wait until your 21st birthday to have your first alcoholic beverage (90% of the alcohol consumption by people under the age of 21 is done so in excess, or binge drinking). According to the CDC, binge drinking in women is typically considered 4 drinks in 2 hours. Excessive drinking and binge drinking can lead to dangerous situations including rape, unsafe sex, legal trouble, hospitalization, brain damage, and even death.
Studies show that men tend to take more risks with their drinking and binge drink more often, but women are not immune to drinking too much and the after effects that may come along with it. "Four out of five college students drink alcohol – and about half of those admit that they sometimes binge when they drink", according to U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Now let's talk about how you can enjoy a few alcoholic beverages with your friends while still keeping yourself safe.
1) The mindset of drinking has a lot to do with how much someone will actually drink. It's important to remember that drinking is not a competition, and if you're being peer-pressured into binge drinking, especially by a team, club, or sorority, you need to find a way out. Hazing in any way, shape, or form (especially binge drinking) is illegal and needs to be reported immediately. Putting your health, safety, and well-being at risk for the sake of fitting in with a team will never be worth it.
2) When you know you will be drinking, always be sure to have a full stomach. With a full meal, especially one that's high in fat content, the alcohol will absorb into your blood stream at a slower rate. Drinking on an empty stomach will cause your blood alcohol level to spike very quickly.
3) Always alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Have one non-alcoholic beverage for every alcoholic beverage you drink to keep yourself hydrated. Believe it or not, dehydration is a severe medical issue that can require hospitalization. Alcohol consumption dehydrates your body. So be sure to have a full glass of water between each drink. A few symptoms of severe dehydration are: nausea, headaches, dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, and lower urine output.
4) Be responsible for your own drinks. I'm sure at this point you're familiar with the date rape drug. That and so many other things can easily be slipped into your beverage, be sure to keep a close eye on your drink at all times. If someone wants to buy you a drink, go to the bar with them and get the drink directly from the bartender. Keep your hand over your drink to prevent something from being slipped in, and if you use the restroom or have to leave your drink for a bit, have a friend keep a close eye on it for you.
5) Pace yourself. Your body can only metabolize about 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. One ounce of alcohol basically equals 1 beer, or 1 glass of wine, or 1 shot. So pace yourself to no more than 1 alcoholic beverage in an hour. It may not be a bad idea to carry your own handheld breathalyzer. You may think because you've only had 1 or 2 drinks and are feeling alright that you are okay to drive, but your blood alcohol level could be much higher than you think.
6) Along these same lines, it's important to make sure you plan your transportation. Always know you have a safe way home, which may include some discussion ahead of time about who may be your sober driver or about using public transportation, cabs, ubers, etc. Leaving this up to a last-minute inebriated decision can result in poor decision making (i.e. drunk driving, going home or getting a ride with someone you don't know or aren't comfortable with).
7) Finally, drink with people you trust and have a pseudo-buddy system intact. Surround yourself with people you know and trust and designate a friend or two for the purpose of looking out for one another, especially in case someone ends up having more to drink than they intended.
As mentioned earlier, excessive drinking can put you at risk for sexual assault or rape. First and foremost, let's be clear that no amount of alcohol or anything else you do or don't do ever makes anyone at fault for being raped or sexually assaulted. 100% of the blame goes to the rapist. With that being said, we simply cannot trust others with our own personal safety, and that's why being aware of your own drinking habits and your own sobriety is going to play a huge role in your ability to protect yourself. According to the U.S. and World News Report, 15% of college freshman are raped while incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. In college, the prevalence of incapacitated rape is much higher than forceful rape, meaning rape that occurs as a result of the rapist using physical force. With that being said, alcohol doesn't cause men to rape. A man who rapes a woman when he's been drinking, would likely also do the same when he's not been drinking. For our purposes, we aren't focused on the man and whether or not he's been drinking and what happens to him when he does. When you drink to excess you become vulnerable to proper decision making, to coercion, to blacking out, and not being able to adequately defend yourself or giving consent. Everything you know and everything you've learned about your own safety and protecting yourself virtually goes out the window when you'd had too much to drink and aren't aware of what's going on. So be safe by being aware of your drinking, making plans while sober, and surrounding yourself with people you trust.
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