It kills about 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 each year, injures another 599,000 under its influence, and more than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of sexual assault or date rape because of it.
The culprit is none other than alcohol, and every year college students become its victims due to misuse of the substance.
In addition to these issues, five percent of four-year college students are involved with the police or campus security as a result of their drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism College Task Force.
“In 2006, 196 DUI-related incidents, meaning driving and collisions occurred in the city of La Verne,” said Corporal Dave Mortazavi of the La Verne Police Department. “Twenty-three of those 196 were underage incidents.”
As students around the country enter college for the first time every year, they assimilate into a new culture that many times involves experimenting with alcohol for the first time or on a more significant level.
“I would say for me I know that drinking is a part of the college experience. There is peer pressure and many other factors that cause students to drink,” senior psychology major Mike Cordova said.
As a past resident assistant, Cordova now serves as an assistant resident coordinator and has experienced his share of students both of age and underage who have been involved with alcohol-related incidents.
“There is no alcohol allowed in the residence halls, and if you get caught you will be written up,” Cordova said.
The Department of Housing and Residential Life takes these matters seriously and each year it coordinates programming for residents to raise alcohol awareness.
This semester alone resident assistants have done such programs as a mock “Beer Pong”
game to express for each cup the statistics related to binge drinking and alcohol abuse.
“I think there are a lot less incidents with drinking on campus because ULV is a dry campus,” Mortazavi said.
But not all students live on campus, and due to regulations should not be drinking on campus.
This often leads students to drive while intoxicated as well as endangering others while transporting their friends while under the influence and harming other drivers.
Mortazavi says that recent grants have allowed funding for DUI patrol cars to specifically seek out drunk drivers.
In addition, there are a number of negative consequences for drunk drivers especially those found to be underage in the city of La Verne.
“If you’re underage and have an .04 alcohol level you can be subject to arrest,” Mortazavi said.
“We can take away your license, you will have to go to a DMV hearing, and could have your license suspended for up to one year and have your car impounded with a special fee attached to get it out.”
And although these issues are extremely important and result in negative consequences, the long-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as devastating.
The College Alcohol Study done by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2002 shows that about six percent of college students meet the criteria to be diagnosed as alcohol dependent and another 31 percent meet the clinical criteria for alcohol abuse.
“Heavy drinking is most often regarded as a behavior problem only,” said John R. Knight, principal investigator of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School.
“Our study indicates that many students who drink heavily are at high risk of true mental disorders, alcohol abuse and dependence,” he added.
“There are a host of disorders that can co-occur,” said Traci Lowenthal, a post-doctoral fellow in the ULV psychology department.
Alcoholism is often referred to as alcohol dependence and is a disease associated with such symptoms as craving or having a strong need or compulsion to drink.
Other symptoms include loss of control over the limit of drinks one consumes, physical dependence and tolerance to drink greater amounts of alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Consuming such large amounts of alcohol can also lead to a host of physical health problems including the failure of many major organs over time.
“It can cause damage to your nervous system and can cause a lot of damage to brain cells,” said Cindy Denne, director of the Student Health Center at the University.
“It can also cause blood pressure problems, sexual dysfunction and abusive relationships,” Denne said.
“Alcohol dependence especially may become a lifelong illness, and more should be done to recognize and help students at risk,” Knight said.
There are various ways of getting the necessary help and support that one may need during their struggle with alcohol.
“There are many different treatment models for alcohol abuse,” Lowenthal said.
“Many people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, but that's just one resource.”
The University's Counseling Center offers services to students who may be struggling with certain personal issues such as substance abuse.
Issues with alcohol are included in those services and can be dealt with through individual counseling at the Center.
“For someone dealing with alcohol abuse definitely seek treatment, it’s not often easily assisted on your own and getting counseling can help,” Lowenthal said.
“One of the ways the Counseling Center can assist is to help the student evaluate treatment options and to determine the best means of receiving that treatment.”
The Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the Hoover Building and is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
They also offer students appointments outside of these hours.
All information is kept confidential.
For more information about the Counseling Center or to make an appointment, call (909) 593-3511, ext. 4831 or visit www.ulv.edu/psychology/counselingcenter/.
For more information about the NIAAA College Task Force, visit www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.
Francine Gobert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.