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To Binge Drink or Not

March 25, 2000|ERICA ZEITLIN

Binge drinking on college campuses has risen, according to a recent Harvard School of Public Health study. The number of "binge drinkers"--defined as men who had five or more drinks and women who had four or more drinks in a row at least once in the two weeks before the survey was taken--rose last year to 22.7% of the student population, up from 19.8% in 1993 and 20.9% in 1997.

The percentage of college students who don't drink at all also has been rising steadily, from 15.4% in 1993 to 18.9% in 1997 and 19.2% in 1999.

Most of the campus binge drinkers--78.9%--are residents of fraternity and sorority houses.

ERICA ZEITLIN spoke with Los Angeles college students about binge drinking.

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LAUREN SUPANCE

19, UCLA sophomore, columnist for the Daily Bruin newspaper

Drink-ing is part of the freedom associated with the college experience. For me, it's sort of like a social outing to drink a lot. It's going beyond the coffeehouses and the movie theaters.

Binge drinking is more about making friends than it is about alcohol. It's a social-acceptance issue. It's just a common medium for friends to meet over. I really don't drink to drink. I don't even like beer. I drink for the effects, because it loosens your inhibitions. That's how you have a good time. I like the flavorful, fruity drinks. I don't want to taste the alcohol.

But I've also gone out with friends and not had a drink.

Stress is a huge factor in binge drinking, because after you've been in class all day, reading or pent up in your dorm or the library, you want to meet a lot of people and go to a party. The frat system takes care of the tide of parties (promotes the party circuit), or there's some big event or a club--and doormen checking IDs can always be bribed.

But binge drinking can definitely be a problem, especially at the very beginning of each quarter, when everyone's getting to know one another. You go out with friends and one thing leads to another, and you say, "If I feel this good now, maybe one more will make me feel better." And the more you drink, the less you keep track.

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AARON FREEDMAN

22, Cal State Northridge senior, president of fraternity Phi Gamma Delta--whose international leadership voted to go "dry" beginning this summer

Our fraternity decided to make any drinking at chapter locations illegal, with no alcohol allowed on the premises of any of our events.

The policy was mainly to make sure that alcohol wasn't the focus of the fraternity or one of the main aspects to joining it. We didn't want parties and that sort of stuff to be the center of things.

The fraternity is meant to be a brotherhood, a social outlet. We wanted to focus on philanthropy and other stuff, and get back to the roots of what we were originally founded for. There are all kinds of negative stereotypes out there about fraternities because of movies like "Animal House," so we're trying to get away from that image of just partying and drinking.

Binge drinking has been very monitored at our university. I don't think there is any way to justify binge drinking. I am sure that those who justify it for themselves think they're having a better time, but I don't think it's positive at all, and there is no good reason for it.

Most of my friends are responsible, and we have a designated driver when we do drink. I think what our fraternity is doing, and the other ones that have decided to go dry, is in the best interests of everyone.

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ENRIQUE "JAY" SANCHEZ

20, UCLA sophomore, member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity

I'm a social drinker. I'll have about five beers and two mixed drinks in five hours, and get to that point that the inhibitions go out the window, but I still have coherent conversations and remember everyone I meet.

If you're running around like a complete idiot or getting sick, then you're a binge drinker.

I enjoy drinking a beer, but I don't go out every single night and get hammered.

You should just be intelligent enough to keep yourself under control. One thing I like about Europe is that from a very young age, you're taught to take alcohol in moderation.

I've spent four summers in France and the children there are given wine at dinner. It's just about staying in control; how much an individual can drink varies.

It's not only in the fraternities that binge drinking goes on. There is so much media emphasis on fraternity binge drinking, but if you go to bars, you'll see people doing the exact same thing.

It's just a stigma with fraternities.

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