Study: Four in 5 College Students Drink

The Stanford Daily
Stanford University

(U-WIRE) STANFORD, Calif. — Four in five college students drink and roughly 40 percent drink heavily, according to an article released Aug. 7 by the American Psychiatry Association (APA).

However, campus officials at Stanford said alcoholism is not as prevalent at the University.

Alcohol and Drug Educator Ralph Castro said that the statistic is closer to two in three students at Stanford. He added that Stanford is consistently below the national average for frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed.

Dr. Alejandro Martinez, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Vaden Health Center, said that while perhaps four out of five students have had alcohol, “the majority of students can be considered light drinkers, not heavy drinkers.”

Martinez said he would describe alcohol abuse at Stanford as a “serious concern,” but not a severe problem. According to the CAPS website, 75 percent of Stanford students either do not drink or drink lightly.

Castro, who serves as chair of the Alcohol Advisory Board and manager of Vaden’s Substance Abuse Prevention Services, also emphasized, though, that “Stanford is not immune to the negative effects of alcohol abuse,” such as having students hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

Patrick Cordova, a rising sophomore and student member of the Alcohol Advisory Board, called Stanford’s alcohol scene “well maintained and well controlled.”

Because Stanford is not an alcohol-free campus, Cordova said, residential education can address the issue of drinking objectively, as opposed to focusing on violations.

“At Stanford, I feel as if drinking is only a catalyst used to calm down, act out, bring out a wild side, or just be trashed,” Cordova said. “That ranges for some from sharing a beer at a fraternity party, to playing beer pong on ski trips, to sake bombs at Miyake, or even taking heavy shots alone in your room.”

Cordova also related the story of a friend who had difficulty managing her alcohol consumption.

“After two and a half quarters of heavy drinking, she did not know what else to do in her free time,” he said.

According to Cordova, the residence deans intervened in the situation and his friend left Stanford for the rest of the quarter. “It seemed necessary,” Cordova added.

This month, the APA launched its second annual public awareness initiative dealing with college issues relating to mental health, including alcohol abuse. This initiative is a part of the group’s national campaign called “Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives.”

“Drinking is not an overbearing campus phenomenon,” said rising sophomore Alex Coley, who called the scene tamer than at many other schools.

Castro and Martinez highlighted the resources available at Stanford to students struggling with alcohol and related problems.
“Students can seek out these services on their own or be directed to them by someone on campus,” Castro said.

Free, confidential, and professional counseling at CAPS is available, and Substance Abuse Prevention Services offers advising and consultations.

Castro also offers a three-hour alcohol education seminar once each quarter. Seminar participants are self-referred or referred by a residence dean or other faculty or staff member.

Martinez called both the counseling and seminar “very effective.” However, he said that “the challenge is to get students to make the call [to get help].”

“It can be very difficult for a student to realize that they need to be concerned about their drinking,” he added. “This is where friends can play a critical role.”

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, was required to attend Castro’s seminar after being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

Of the hospital experience, the student said that the people at the hospital “are strictly concerned with your safety — not policing — and that is sort of reflective of Stanford’s general attitude toward drinking, especially underage.”

The student said that Castro, the seminar leader, was “truly genuine” and “single-handedly made the event a worthwhile one, mixing in humorous anecdotes with his realistic approach toward college drinking.”

“Ralph threw a lot of hard data at us, which I personally found helpful,” the student added.

“My understanding is that Ralph does indeed visit dorms throughout the year, and I’m sure the people who attend his talks leave satisfied,” the student said. “I’m not proposing that this kind of alcohol education be mandatory, but I’d hope to see dorm staff really try to push students to go to events like this.”

The student added, “Though it’s likely that many students in the seminar, especially the older ones, knew everything Ralph said, I’d be willing to bet that many incoming freshmen wouldn’t.”

Incoming freshman Sally Schonefeld said that she expects there to be some pressure to drink at Stanford.

“I think I can trust myself to keep my alcohol consumption at a safe level,” she said. “Right now I feel like my schoolwork will be my priority, and I won’t let alcohol and parties get in the way of that.”

Bert McBride, another incoming freshman, said that although Stanford’s drinking culture is not as prevalent as that of other schools he has visited, that doesn’t change some things.

“College is college,” he said. “No matter where you go, there is a 98 percent chance that there is going to be a drinking scene there.”

However, McBride added that he doubts there will be pressure to drink from other students.

“From what I have seen, most people are pretty open-minded and accept everyone else’s point of view,” he said.