Female CSUN students reflect national binge drinking behaviors

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Studies show that CSUN students are keeping up with the national average when it comes to binge drinking, especially for women.

According to a recent study released by the Center for Disease Control in January, the prevalence and intensity of binge drinking for women age 18 to 24 was higher than for any other group of women. In 2011, more than 13.6 million women in the U.S. reported binge drinking at least three times a month. Most consumed an average of about six drinks per occasion.

Binge drinking is defined by the CDC as having four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women, five or more for men.

Drinking and dieting

Catherine Jermany, CSUN child and adolescent development major and CSUN  Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating (JADE) counselor, 22, said she is concerned about drinking patterns. Jermany, who hosted a table during CSUN’s eating disorder awareness week, said that some young women “save” their calories all day by skipping meals, “using” those calories when they go out drinking that night.

“This is a new thing I see happening with high school students and college students, too,” she said.

The practice, known among some as “drunkorexia” can have serious effects on the body.

Janice Martin, alcohol and drug counselor at the Klotz Student Health Center said the lack of food in a person’s stomach allows alcohol to absorb into the bloodstream faster.

“They get drunk much quicker,” she said.

Martin said that serious problems can arise when people consume so much alcohol in such a short amount of time. The body can’t process it, and it begins to shut down, she said.

Of the 23,000 annual deaths among young women attributed to excessive alcohol use, the CDC reported that more than half were specifically attributed to binge drinking.

The Center For Disease Control lists a number of problems associated with binge drinking. They include alcohol poisoning as well as neurological damage. Women may also be prone to unintended pregnancy and having children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Shelby Stewart, CTVA major, 19, said she thinks students have a lot of misconceptions about drinking.

“When I grew up I didn’t even think of drinking as that big of a deal, but it is a huge, huge deal and it can turn into a problem like that.”

Stewart, a sophomore, said that she became more aware of off-campus parties once she joined a sorority. She said she had heard girls talking about fasting before going out to a party or feeling like they had to work out more to make up for drinking the night before.

Studies and realities

The CDC report covers respondents from all across the United States. CSUN participates in a more campus-specific study through the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment.

The assessment, which can be viewed at the Klotz Student Health Center website, showed that 16 percent of female CSUN students in 2011 reported having five or more drinks in a sitting within the last two weeks.

The CSUN study also asked students about their perception of alcohol use on campus. Students estimated that 44 percent of their peers had been out drinking in the past 10 to 29 days. However, the data showed that only 11 percent of students actually reported drinking, showing that students may under-report their own drinking habits, or overestimate just how much drinking is going on at campus parties.

“It’s mainly to fit in,” Jermany said of common drinking behaviors. “They see other people doing it, you hear the rappers talking about drinking, you see the ‘cool people’ drinking, you go to these house parties and everyone is drinking. So if you’re the only person who is not drinking you feel left out. It’s like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’”

Jermany said it may be difficult for students to estimate exactly how many drinks they have at an off-campus party because the drinks are not accurately measured like at a bar.

People pass around bottles of vodka, go into a party and continue drinking, she said. The practice of sharing a bottle makes it very difficult to estimate just how many ounces they’ve actually consumed.

According to The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard “drink” is anything that contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. So, a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine and a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor are all considered one drink.

Help for students with questions

Stewart, who is also a JADE counselor, said there are resources for students who may have questions about drinking.

“A lot of students don’t know that if you need to talk to someone we have the University Counseling Services,” she said

Students can make appointments with the University Counseling Services in Bayramian Hall. They can go up to eight times a semester for free and conversations are confidential.

Health Educator Sharon Aronoff said students who think they may have a problem or who just have questions can also contact Janice Martin at the student health center. As a counselor, she provides a safe, non-judgemental place to talk and there is no limit to the number of times a student may make an appointment, she said.

Martin said students should look for the signs of alcohol poisoning which include changes in skin color, slowed breathing and not waking up if passed out. If someone thinks their friend is in trouble she said they should “call 911 without a doubt,” adding that underage students are protected from prosecution under the California Lifeline Legislation.

The bill, passed in 2010, states that if a person under the age of 21 calls 911 and reports that they or another person needs medical assistance due to alcohol consumption, they will not be prosecuted for underage drinking.

While Martin and Aronoff said they feel CSUN is not really a party school, students had different opinions.

“Any school’s a party school if you let it be,” Stewart said, adding that there are off-campus parties to be found every weekend.

“This is definitely known as a party school,” Jermany said, noting that her friends from Northern California and nearby high school students she mentors all told her they thought of CSUN as a place where everyone “drinks and parties.”

“I definitely feel that this needs to be addressed,” Jermany said. “There’s just so many negative consequences.”

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