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Editorial: Looking beyond college to long-term effects of alcohol

This week, we are going to focus our editorial on the drinking culture that has developed in our generation. The term “drinking culture” refers to a set of practices involving alcohol consumption shared by the community—we choose to focus specifically on the college community. As members of this culture, we write our own observations and want to emphasize that we do not speak for everyone at Carleton.

What is considered normal drinking? There are certain practices that we have come to view as normal. Whether it satisfies boredom or relieves stress, drinking also tends to serve an entertainment purpose. In contrast to a European country where drinking is relatively practiced in moderation, college students in the United States often engage in competitive drinking behaviors that resemble binge drinking. The theme becomes who can drink the most, who can drink the fastest. The winner might receive a certain level of notoriety.

This develops into a lifestyle some consider normal. It is not unusual for a college student to consume more than the average amount of alcohol. In a survey conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), “Approximately 6 percent of college students have been diagnosed as alcohol dependent and nearly one-third of students would be given an alcohol abuse diagnosis under psychiatric criteria. Approximately 44 percent of students reported at least one symptom of either abuse or dependence.” These statistics are startling and suggest a troubling patter in college drinking, yet this type of drinking behavior has become the social norm.

It is difficult to step back and evaluate this behavior as it occurs. There is a blurry line between drinking recreationally and drinking dangerously. Drinking can and does occur in a way that enhances social activities and serves as a method of relaxation. Yet as these habits become embedded in regular social practices, college students run the risk of overlooking a true drinking problem.

So while the type of drinking we have previously described might certainly be entertaining, does it translate into the “real world?”

It is reported that alcoholism affects one in three families in the United States. We must consider that drinking behavior in college contributes to this number. The patterns formed in college undeniably follow into adult life.

We do not think it is productive to determine in this discussion whether drinking is inherently “good” or “bad.” It is a far more complex, personal issue. Instead, we must realistically evaluate drinking patterns and consider how this behavior will impact ourselves and others in the future.

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