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Campus Life Includes a Steady Flow of Festive Suds

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Weigert says he still drinks -- but not too much. "I think drinking is fun. And I like to go out and have a beer with my friends after class."

Ed McGlothlin, a junior at Florida State University -- recognized by some as the "top" party school in the country -- suggested the alcohol agenda is being set, in part, by forces off-campus -- such as local bars, which frequently offer drink promotions. "For some reason I haven't figured out, Thursday nights and Tuesday nights have become party nights," he said.

In fact, college alcohol promotions are coming from some strange places these days, such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The animal rights group recently began a campaign urging students to switch their milk for beer. The "Got Beer?" parody got the attention of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which is urging PETA to can it.

"I spoke with the head of the campaign and asked if they ever thought about the ramifications of underage drinking," Millie Webb, MADD's national president, tells WebMD. "We already have over 4 million people younger than 21 considered binge drinkers. It's totally alarming. That's why this PETA campaign bothered us so."

If there is any silver lining to the Harvard report it is this: Non-drinkers have increased on campus, too, from 15% of those questioned to 19%. And Weschler says that while he hasn't studied the long-term fate of college binge drinkers, it is very likely they are going through a phase -- albeit one that can have deadly consequences.

Vital Information:

  • After polling 14,000 college students about their alcohol consumption, Harvard researchers found nearly half the respondents were binge drinkers.
  • The researchers report that campus drinking habits have not changed much since a similar study was done in 1997: Nearly a quarter of the polled students still are heavy bingers and may be in denial of their habit. About one in five students in the survey does not drink, representing a gain of few percentage points since the last study.
  • Eight in 10 of those sampled who lived in fraternity and sorority groups were binge drinkers, and half of them fell into the "worst drinker" group. Members of the heaviest drinker group were seven times more likely to miss class, five times more likely to black out and 10 times more likely to damage property.
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