Smart Choices

What's the real truth about alcohol and other drug use on college campuses?

Alcohol and other drug use is all around us on college campuses. UW-La Crosse is no exception. There is no escaping the fact that is it a part of college life. Whether we are over or under the legal drinking age, it is difficult to avoid making decisions about drinking – on dates, in our rooms, or at parties.

There are a growing number of students, however, who have made a decision not to use alcohol. They have discovered they can have fun, interact with others socially and participate in all aspects of college life without altering their moods with chemicals. These individuals tend to experience and/or contribute to fewer relationship and academic problems, drunk driving accidents, date rape, and other alcohol related problems. AND – they don't suffer from hangovers the next morning!

Alcohol Related Problems

Regardless of the choice we make, it is important that we remember that we are responsible for our behavior and the consequences of our actions. Therefore, we need to be fully informed about how our alcohol use may impact our health, safety, academic achievement and happiness. There are risks involved in using alcohol excessively in college – some of which are life threatening! Alcohol use is a primary contributing factor in serious campus problems:

Sexual Assault
Campus vandalism
Aggression
Sexually transmitted diseases
AIDS
Drinking and driving accidents
Academic problems
Relationship problems
And many more...

We believe that part of being an adult involves being well informed enough to make responsible choices!

Health Risks of Alcohol Use

Use of alcohol can cause:

  • Impaired judgment and impaired coordination, which can lead to:

> Sexual assault/sexual harassment
> Unwanted pregnancy
> Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: if alcohol is used during the pregnancy
> Sexually transmitted infections and/or HIV/AIDS
> Accidental injuries
> Increased chances of getting into an argument or fight
> Car crashes

  • Depression: which could lead to suicide
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Hangovers: headaches, nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light, etc.
  • Alcohol poisoning: which can lead to unconsciousness and/or death
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure: which can lead to stroke or heart attack
  • Increased susceptibility to various cancers: particularly of the mouth, stomach, and liver
  • Dependence

Alcohol Use on Campus – THE FACTS!

Students often wonder just how extensive alcohol and other drug use is on college campuses.  Even though national data supports the general view that alcohol is the primary "drug of choice" of American college students, studies are also finding that the majority of students are making responsible decisions regarding alcohol and other drug use. Below are some key findings from national and UW-L surveys that support this view.

KEY FINDINGS FROM NATIONAL SURVEYS:

**   57% of college students drink moderately or abstain from alcohol.
**   The number of those who abstain from alcohol has increased from 16% to 19% in the last three years.
**   58% of students reported consuming fewer than five drink in one sitting.

KEY FINDINGS FROM UW-L SURVEYS (CORE 2000/EXTRA QUESTIONS):

**   Most UW-L students have 0 to 5 or drinks a week.
**   19% of UW-L students abstain from alcohol.
**   71% of UW-L students use alcohol once a week or less.
**   78% of UW-L students have never been in trouble with police, RAs and other college authorities as a result of drinking
**   One-third of UW-L students' alcohol usage has decreased in the past year.
**   77% of UW-L students refused an offer of alcohol within the past 30 days.

How can alcohol and other drug use affect my behavior?
Here are the 10 most frequently noted negative consequences reported by students: 
Ten most frequently noted negative consequences reported by students chart.

Partying on the weekends isn't really going to affect my grades, is it?
Think again! There is a strong relationship between alcohol use and grade point average.

Graph of relationship between alcohol use and grade point average.

Source: CORE Instrument findings – permission is given to reproduce any charts and graphs.

UW-L Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Policy

Universities, because of their educational missions, need to provide leadership on issues concerning society. The use and abuse of drugs including alcohol, is one such issue where our campus should establish a leadership role. The following is a brief summary of key points included in the UW-L policy on alcohol and other drugs. The complete policy is available at the Student Life Office.

The misuse and abuse of alcohol has potential to produce negative consequences and adversely affect the academic, personal, social, physical and vocational lives of all members of the University community. A proactive approach should be taken to educate students and staff, and assist those who are experiencing problems associated with alcohol use. The University discourages events that promote excessive use of alcohol. A full range of intervention services (assessment, short term counseling, education, and referral) is available to all members of the university community through the Counseling and Testing Center.

How can I tell if my drinking is a problem?

Students frequently become concerned about a friend or roommate's alcohol or other drug use. Many others question whether they might be a problem drinker. Determining the difference between just "a drinker" and a "problem drinker" can be difficult.

Although the majority of college students make responsible decisions, the fact is that many students do use alcohol. Most do drink responsibly on most occasions.  Unfortunately, some have difficulty remaining just social drinkers.  They begin to experience damaging consequences from alcohol use.  These consequences not only affect their own lives, but the lives of others they care about.

How will I know if I'm one of those individuals who is not handling his or her alcohol use effectively?

Indicators of a Problem
A person may have an alcohol or drug problem when he or she:

  • continues drinking despite negative consequences
  • is unable to control use
  • considers alcohol to be increasingly important in his or her life
  • often drinks to intoxication
  • experiences negative effects on academic or job performance
  • makes threats or does physical harm to self or others
  • requires hospital or physician treatment
  • has blackouts (memory losses)
  • needs alcohol to socialize
  • has financial difficulties
  • develops feelings of guilt, remorse or defensiveness about use
  • damages his or her reputation due to use

If you or someone you care about demonstrates several of the above indicators, talking to someone who can help you is the responsible decision! Resources available to help you include the Counseling & Testing Center, or the Wellness Resource Center.

Alternative Activities

Since most of the students are making more positive choices, what are some of the fun activities that students choose to participate in that don't involve alcohol? Various activities on the UW-L campus include intramural sports (i.e., volleyball, basketball, softball, rugby, etc.), swimming, aerobics, rock climbing, racquetball, tennis, bowling, pool, outdoor connection (rents equipment for outdoor activities), concerts, and plays. There are also many exciting programs that are sponsored by various organizations on campus. The La Crosse community also provides a variety of great social activities such as movies at the Hollywood and Rivoli theaters, hiking in Hixon Forest, Jules Coffee House, biking/cross country skiing on the scenic state trails, bowling, etc.