When picturing a binge drinker, who are the stereotypical candidates? While most think of the fraternity brothers of Animal House or jocks crushing beer cans over their heads, recent research shows females are increasingly hitting the bottle and tapping the keg.
A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, published in the American Journal for College Health in March, reports that nearly 44 percent of college students binge drink.
The study, compiled by yearly surveys from 1993 to 2001, notes that 41 percent of women on coed campuses report binge drinking, and it indicates a seven percent jump in the number of students at all-women’s schools who binge drink. The study said all women colleges saw a 125 percent increase in frequent binge drinking during the duration of the study. The study said there was a three-fold increase in the number of women who reported being drunk on 10 or more occasions in the past month.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming – in one sitting – four or more drinks for females and five or more for men.
Brian Hamluk, director of GW’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Education, said two-thirds of GW students are not binge drinkers and either do not drink or have up to four drinks when they party.
At GW, women are hospitalized for over consumption more than men. Out of 38 hospitalizations this year, 24 were women. Hamluk said the majority of hospitalizations are freshmen, and Student Judicial Services reports that incidents are down from 46 last year.
According to C.A.D.E.’s Web site, alcohol contributes to 85 percent of campus rapes, half of on-campus crime, one in three suicides and third of college failures.
The definition of binge drinking is commonly misunderstood among students, like sophomore Michelle Singler, a transfer student from the University of New Hampshire.
“Binge drinking is when you have 10 or more drinks at a time,” Singler said.
Singler also said she has noticed the prevalence of women who drink at GW.
“At UNH, guys binge drink more and at GW I’ve noticed that it seems to be more of a problem with girls,” she said.
Sophomore Matthew Neuburger said he thinks men and women binge drink at similar rates.
“The difference is that most girls have a lower tolerance than guys, so the effects of alcohol hit them sooner,” he said.
According to “Women on a Binge,” a Time magazine article published in April, women’s bodies have a higher ratio of fat to water, causing alcohol to be less diluted in the blood stream. Time reports that women also have lower levels of enzyme that help break down alcohol. The article says females should eat before they drink and think twice before drinking one for one with the guys.
The rise in female binge drinking may not be noticeable on a given Saturday night, but research has shown that this trend is a reality.
According to the Time magazine article, more than twice as many women as men at Syracuse University were hospitalized for over-consumption last year.
The Time article said there has been a 35 percent increase in alcohol violations sanctioned to women at Georgetown University in the past three years.
GW handed down 345 sanctions for alcohol violations this year, but breakdowns of gender were unavailable.
“Characteristics show that alcohol problems are similar in men and women, including missing classes, losing communication with friends, dramatic change in mood and difficulty sleeping,” Hamluk said.
C.A.D.E. provides reading material and services to educate students on alcohol and drug safety.
Binge drinking sometimes goes unnoticed among friends. Alicia Stauffer, a sophomore community facilitator in the Aston, offered several warning signs of a student developing a drinking problem.
“If you have a friend who drinks alone or during the week, you should start to look out for them,” Stauffer said. “If they seem to only be drinking to get drunk or become defensive when someone confronts them about it, those are strong warning signs that they are developing a drinking problem.”
Stauffer’s word of advice on how to handle a friend with a drinking problem is to get outside help.
“Don’t be afraid to get help just because you don’t want to get your friend in trouble,” she said. “It’s not worth risking someone’s health for something as minor as an alcohol violation. If you aren’t conformable talking to your CF about a friend in need of help, you can always get help at C.A.D.E. or the Counseling Center.”