We all have a drunken story or two (or twelve). Waking up disoriented the morning after a crazy night on Sixth Street is common for University of Texas students. It’s also common for these incidents to be written off as harmless fun. The unfortunate truth, however, is that alcoholism does exist on college campuses and it’s important for all students to be able to recognize problematic behavior.
Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed on a continuum, meaning that there are levels of magnitude of the disorder. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has a list of 11 symptoms common to the disorder. Patients are diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe based on the number of symptoms they have. This means that the stereotypical drunkard that you may think epitomizes alcoholism is not the sole depiction of this disease. These milder forms of Alcohol Use Disorder, which may include things like binge drinking and reckless behavior when drunk, also need to be treated before they’re given the time to grow into more serious conditions.
In theie book “Almost Alcoholic,” clinical psychologist Joseph Nowinski and Harvard Medical School instructor Robert Doyle describes the progression from social drinking to alcoholism as a “slow and insidious process, one that is so subtle and gradual as to be virtually undetectable to those who are experiencing it (as well as those who are close to them).”
As college students that are under huge amounts of stress, we are particularly susceptible to this disease. On any given week we have midterms to study for, papers to write and hundreds of pages to read (or at least skim). Stress is a main factor in the initiation and persistence of alcohol use disorder and the numbers are reflecting that.
Four out of five college students drink alcohol. Nearly half of all college students consume alcohol through binge drinking. Though binge drinking does not necessarily lead to alcoholism, it definitely has harmful consequences. The consumption of large amounts of alcohol at one time leads to almost 2,000 student injuries, 696,000 physical assaults and 97,000 sexual assaults each year.
We all agree that the effects of heavy drinking are serious, yet we continue to partake in it. We continue to go out Thursday through Saturday in the name of “turning up.” Where’s the line between having a good time and having a disorder? And are we willing to speak out when this line has been crossed?
Solutions to alcoholism on college campuses are still hard to come by because alcohol is such an integral part of campus culture. Perhaps the biggest barrier separating students from healthy lives is ignoring these problems exist. While Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other therapy methods are great, they cannot begin to work if we’re under the impression that alcoholism doesn’t affect students.
The stigma of alcoholics being old, unemployed men stumbling around needs to be put to rest. There isn’t one face of alcohol use disorder. These men and women look just like you and me, our friends and our family. With Round-Up and Texas Relays coming up this weekend, I urge you to remember that it’s okay to have fun, but even fun has its limits.
Brookins is a psychology junior from McKinney. Follow her on Twitter @kenneteaa.