College Drinking Then and Now

surviving_college-3026Like it or not, college life and drinking often go hand in hand. So what do you do, or think, or say when your own kid is soon to enter that four-year phase of alcohol meets academia? And will they really listen?

When I think back to my own college experience, the images that come to mind include lush green quads and the boundless energy of the students walking across them, the classes filled with youthful, eager faces (okay, not all so eager) and most certainly, the rousing football games with pitchers of bloody marys, the games of quarters and cheap beer, and the colorful jello shots that were a main attraction at many a late-night party.

Do I tell my daughters that nearly every night of the week, starting on tuesday, my crew of friends and I had a different bar we’d frequent once our studies were put to bed?

Times are different now. The legal drinking age isn’t 18, like it was when I was in college, and it seems that any level of moderation college drinkingwent out the window with the younger drinking age. Binge drinking is a big problem for college kids. So are incidents of sexual abuse, drunk driving, assault and death. (For a more elaborate list, check out A Snapshot of Annual High-Risk College Drinking Consequences.)

“On average, college students in the U.S. purchase an estimated 430 million gallons of alcoholic beverages, including 4 billion cans of beer annually,” reports an article titled, How Much Drinking is too Much for Students? in Marshall University’s newspaper.

Those are pretty astounding numbers.

My older daughter just finished her sophomore year at college, and has adjusted to the so-called drinking life that seems inevitable on nearly every campus. I’d like to think we taught her how to make smart choices and sound decisions. I have another daughter who’s got one year to go before she, too, is off to college. I’ll just have to hope that when my younger one goes off to school, she’ll use her brain both in class and at parties. And that like her sister, she’ll be good to her brain and body. It’d be naive to think that her college experience will be alcohol-free. And that’s okay. I hope.

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Wine and Serenity on Superbowl Sunday?

cgon175l-1I don’t know about you, but my Sundays (and some Saturdays) since September have been filled with football. I have a husband and a son who are fairly smitten with watching overgrown boys run around a field in any type of weather throwing and chasing a ball, and then falling upon one another to retrieve what seems to be as valuable as the Hope diamond, ignoring that they are potentially crushing someone else’s–or their own–skull.

It is commonplace on these long weekend afternoons for my two boys to sit on our family room couch, snacking on thick, extra dark pretzels (paying no attention to the crumbs and salt bits that fall in between the couch cushions), tossing a football and tackling one another or our dog during commercials–and drinking. If my twelve-year-old is feeling really hyped up for the event, he’ll ask if he can have a soda–usually saved only for special occasions in our house–while my husband opts for a cold Saranac Black & Tan, his beer of choice on these special game days.

When game time begins and all players–and viewers–prepare for the coin toss (or on some days the pre-game show needs to be screened first), that’s my clue to take to the living room. I’ll usually curl up on the couch, with either a cup of tea or a glass of wine close by–book, newspaper, and laptop at the ready for at least four hours of quiet time (save for the occasional shrieks coming from the next room).

Once in a while, my husband will gently request (“quick! come fast! hurry up!”) that I come and join them to watch a replay of some player running 40 or 50 yards down the field and then doing some kind of tribal dance in the end zone (that’s actually my favorite part). I oblige for the sake of my son–wouldn’t want him to think that his mom isn’t a woman with varied interests.

And then, I retreat to my corner in the next room. Happy. My husband chugs his beer and my son his soda, and both scream at the TV. I sip my wine (or tea), cozily engaging in my reading and/or writing. So, in truth, it turns out that football days are not so bad. This coming Sunday is the almighty Super Bowl. There will probably be a lot of noise coming from our house as of 6:30 pm EST when the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers take to the field (full disclosure: I had to ask a friend who was playing). I may hide out at a neighbor’s house. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll put down my book, opt for a beer, and relocate to sit with the boys, pretending that I actually care.

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Monks Export Craft Beer–One-time Only

Who said monks weren’t crafty? In an effort to raise funds toward the renovation of their abbey, the Belgian monks at St. Sixtus Abbey chose the the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012 to offer devout American fans a delivery of Westvleteren 12, a beer that is brewed by the monks in small amounts and was exported for the first time.

According to an article on CNBC.com, the coveted Trappist Westvleteren 12–a dark beer that has been named the world’s best by beer aficionados–is typically sold exclusively at the abbey store and only after reserving a limited quantity of the beer through the “beer phone number.”

But last week, patient American customers were given a one-time chance to get their hands on six bottles of beer, each of which would set them back over $20. Just 15,000 packs of six bottles of Westvleteren 12, including two special tasting glasses, were sold in the United States at $85 each this week.

The monks live at the abbey in western Belgium’s countryside, and their days are focused entirely on prayer. They rise at 3:00 a.m. to start the first of seven prayer sessions and in between, they work in the kitchen and garden and perform tasks such as painting–and brewing. The monks have brewed the same amount of beer every year since 1945, said a piece on npr.org, which amounts to about 3,800 U.S. barrels, just the amount needed to sustain the abbey. Sales of the beer are tightly controlled.

One of the few people allowed inside the abbey, Mark Bode, the longtime spokesman for the Westvleteren Brewery, thinks this will be the first and last time the monks export their very popular nectar. “They say, ‘We are monks, we don’t want to be too commercial. We needed some money to help us buy the new abbey and that’s it,’ ” Bode explains. “Back to normal again.”

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Will My Kid Be an Underage Drinker because of Ads on TV?

My 11-year-old son watches a ton of sports on television. Weekday evenings (after his homework is done, of course) and weekend afternoons are often spent surfing from basketball to baseball and back again. If there’s a tennis match or horse racing on, he may watch that too. With all the game and tournament coverage, however, come a constant stream of commercials—a great number of which are for the likes of an ice cold Bud, Michelob, or Coors Light.

So do watching, singing along with and remembering these frequent beer and booze advertisements mean he is more likely to drink alcohol as an adolescent? Apparently, yes, that’s a distinct possibility, according to a new study reported in Science Daily.

In the study, conducted at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, researchers questioned more than 2,500 young people ranging from 15 to 20 years old about their exposure to alcohol, if they had a favorite alcohol ad, and if they owned alcohol-branded merchandise, among other behaviors.

After being shown 20 images from the most popular TV ads for alcohol, with the brand names removed, the participants were then asked if they remembered the ads, liked the ads and knew about the products being advertised.

The results showed that 59 percent of underage kids drank alcohol. Of those who drank, 49 percent had engaged in binge drinking (had more than six drinks in a row) at least once the previous year. Familiarity with TV alcohol advertising was much higher among the drinkers than nondrinkers, and having alcohol-branded merchandise or having a favorite alcohol ad was linked to more hazardous drinking.

“Underage drinking remains an important health risk in the U.S.,” said lead author Susanne E. Tanski, MD, MPH, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “In this study, we have shown a link between recognition of nationally televised alcohol advertisements and underage drinking initiation and heavier use patterns.”

I have to admit, I’ve never paid much attention to the product when my son calls me over to watch his favorite commercial of-the-moment. It’s usually the witty tune or humor that he’s urging me to notice. But after learning about this study and its results, I may encourage him to take a bathroom break or go grab a snack when the game on the screen is interrupted for a commercial break.

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The College Focus on Women & Alcohol on Campus

drinking cupsIt seems that the Lehigh University Women’s Center  is taking an important stand, opening up a much-needed conversation about the pressures college-aged women sometimes feel surrounding alcohol, according to an article on the Lehigh Valley Live website.

A part of the university’s Women and Health Speakers & Events Series–and as a follow-up to the screening of the documentary Miss Representation, which addressed the pressures surrounding the ideal of successful women–the event focused on issues such as body image, the prominence of alcohol on campus, and why women are now choosing to consume hard liquor instead of beer.

Rita Jones, the Director of the Women’s Center, said the event was meant to offer a space for conversation, and that it did, as students and faculty in attendance spoke candidly about the pressures and effects of alcohol on women in Lehigh’s community.

Apparently, many women are opting to drink hard liquor because it has fewer calories, validating that body image and calorie counting are affecting women’s choices. Most students at the event agreed that the “loudest social voice on campus is often one advocating partying,” and that alcohol has become a “social crutch since “there’s there is nothingcollege girls drinking to do at a party but drink.”

Some students suggested they’d like to see more non-alcohol activities on campus and explained that when libraries closes early, “it practically encourages students to go out and consume alcohol on the weekends.”

For student-athletes, those at the event said that their team’s longest meetings focused on discussions of dry policies, which determine the times athletes cannot consume alcohol before and after sporting events.

Kudos to Lehigh for bringing these issues about women and alcohol to light and offering students a chance to speak out. Let’s hope that other colleges and universities follow suit.

 

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