Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Practice safe boundaries when drinking

Anuja Manjrekar

Content warning: This story discusses topics including alcoholism, binge drinking and substance abuse. 

Parties and drinking are commonly associated with the college experience. College students tend to drink more than other young adults, a standard which has become commonly accepted in campus culture. This normalization of alcohol consumption can lead to students practicing dangerous drinking habits without realizing the gravity of their actions.

Four or five drinks may not seem excessive to many college students, but it actually qualifies as binge drinking. Twenty percent of college students fit the pattern of having alcohol use disorder. Because alcoholism has become so normalized on college campuses, students often don’t recognize dangerous behavior until they have to face serious consequences. Setting safe boundaries around drinking can prevent alcohol abuse before it becomes a habit. 

SHIFT is a University-sponsored initiative aiming to educate students about responsible drinking habits. SHIFT director Kate Lower discusses the misconceptions present in expectations about the college experience. 

“Binge drinking remains a highly normative behavior for college students, and I think you see that reinforced in popular culture,” Lower said. “Families or friends will share their experiences that really sometimes glorify that experience of drinking in excess.”

Many associate nights out with heavy drinking, and the culture surrounding drinking at college can desensitize young adults to extreme consequences like blacking out or developing alcohol poisoning, which contribute to serious health risks.

“I’ve been to (one) frat party, … there (were) multiple people just blacked out. In the middle of the dance floor, a girl actually passed out and knocked her head on the concrete, … (and) EMS had to come,” journalism sophomore Cameron Aikman said. 

Having a “party phase” in college is often seen as normal, and students are expected to learn from their mistakes and grow out of risky behaviors. However, this dangerous habit doesn’t disappear post-graduation. Research shows that binge drinking in young adults increases the risk of alcohol dependence later in life. Decisions surrounding drinking in college can have lifelong consequences.

Heavy drinking is especially normalized in spaces like fraternity parties, where alcohol is the center of socialization. It sounds outdated, but implicit peer pressure still exists in drinking culture. Some students may drink more than they want to if they feel uncomfortable or isolated in a social setting. 

“I don’t know anyone who would enjoy a frat party sober,” Aikman said.

If a situation requires heavy drinking for you and your friends to feel comfortable, it might be worth considering if you really want to be there in the first place. 

There are many students who choose not to drink or do so in moderation, but Lower said that this group is not always included in the popular narrative. UT SHIFT Makers, who are trained in mixology and create creative zero-proof mocktails, show students that fun and socialization don’t require intoxication. 

“Our SHIFT Makers themselves will be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize how many people would be so receptive to this,’ or, ‘I didn’t realize how many students don’t drink or want a different option.’”

Students can mitigate the harms of excessive alcohol consumption by questioning the social norms surrounding drinking at college. The risks of heavy drinking are serious, but young people are equipped to minimize harm by implementing safe boundaries around alcohol. It’s in our hands to shift the narrative and prevent future students from accepting dangerous drinking norms. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an unsafe relationship with alcohol, help is available. You can call 211 to connect to a substance abuse and mental health specialist. 

Jackson is a Plan II and journalism junior from Boerne, Texas.

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