Ponnada: Binge drinking a dangerous gateway to popularity

BY SRI PONNADA | JULY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Coming into college, I thought that I’d finally be far away from the cliquey-ness of high school.

There are no popular kids in college — right? How can the notion of popularity exist in an institution of more than 30,000 people, where you don’t even know the name of the person who sits next to you in your boring 8 a.m. lecture every day?

I was very wrong.

Even in our late teens and early 20s, when we’re supposed to be “adults,” many people are consumed with the dream of being the most popular persons in their social circles. But unlike in the good old days, when drinking Starbucks coffee and dressing like a hipster was what made you cool, chugging beer is the “cool” thing to do. There’s now scientific proof of it, too.

According to a new study titled “Drinking to Reach the Top,” young adults who binge drink are at the top of the social ladder. And these young alcohol enthusiasts aren’t just revered by their peers for their shot-taking capabilities — heavy drinkers gain a lot of social clout because they are usually the ones getting everyone else to drink as well. Apparently, binge drinkers are also seen as fun and a lot friendlier than their sober counterparts. After all, who’d want to have an actual conversation with someone new and interesting without puke spewing everywhere or the psychological ease of blacking out?

You might be thinking, “Oh, I never black out when I drink.” Even if you manage to make it through a night of partying, you may still be a binge drinker.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this usually happens when men have five drinks or more and women have four or more in the span of two hours — a typical night out for most underage students who hit the bars at 8 p.m. and leave by 10, when the cops start patrolling.

The Spring 2014 National College Health Assessment report, which shows how healthy college students across America are, states that UI students are “more likely to engage in high-risk drinking.” The average UI student has nearly six drinks when he or she parties or socializes. So, in other words, the average UI student binge drinks.

But is being “cool” in college worth the trouble binge drinking brings?

Just as the alcohol institute report states that UI students are more likely to drink dangerously, it also notes that students are more likely to experience negative consequences from their alcohol use.

This includes forgetting where they were or what they did, doing something they later regretted, having unprotected sex, physically injuring themselves, and getting into trouble with the police.

I guess it’s the price you pay for popularity in your 20s.  After all, it isn’t the easiest thing to make friends, especially at the University of Iowa (No. 1 party school), if casually getting blackout drunk on weekends isn’t your thing, right?

So, incoming freshmen and current sober students, the choice is yours to make. Will it be Hawkeye, tequila, Rumchata, or cheap beer? Or will you allow yourself to be exiled from downtown Iowa City on weekends for the rest of your college career, eventually having to find friends you can trust to be worthwhile and like you while sober?

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