It might be a common conception that experimenting with alcohol is a normal part of growing up for everyone in this culture. With the amount of ads that come out almost daily celebrating both youth culture and alcohol consumption in the same message, and the presence of alcohol in all kinds of films and television shows, it does seem to be a part of life, and drinking at a young age is part of the picture. In that light, college binge drinking might seem to be a normal activity for normal people who are becoming accustomed to learning how to live in the world today.
Perhaps the big question here is: who decides what is normal, and how did it come to be this way? All of the studies of binge drinking among 18-24 year olds show some extremely unhealthy and often very dangerous patterns. Recent medical reports on alcoholism also suggest that those who experience intoxication at a younger age are far more likely to drink heavily throughout their lives. At the age of 18, the brain is still being formed, and alcohol can have even more serious lifelong consequences than usual.
In terms of immediate physical consequences, the statistics are not very reassuring. An estimated 1,700 students die each year from alcohol-related accidents, and most of these are the result of drunk driving. Approximately 600,000 are injured every year from accidents that are alcohol-related, and almost 700,000 are assaulted by someone who is under the influence. This includes sexual assault, and although its impossible to estimate how many students engage in unprotected sex while intoxicated, one in twenty report some form of sexual violence from a drunk partner. 30,000 students are taken to the hospital every year because of an alcohol overdose.
The studies don’t indicate that things are getting any better, although universities with strict alcohol policies do seem to have an effect on the students’ drinking behavior. But more importantly, in states where the drinking laws are more relaxed, and where it is more common for the adults to drink heavily, the universities have much higher numbers in terms of problems with alcohol consumption among its student population. With these facts, it is difficult to see how youth culture and alcohol can be presented in any positive light.