PHILADELPHIA – At a conference all about how college health officials can help students solve their problems, one speaker took an unexpected stance in a speech on student alcohol use and abuse: colleges can’t do much to stop it.
In a presentation Thursday at the American College Health Association’s annual meeting, Edward P. Ehlinger, director and chief health officer of Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota, took aim at campus-based projects intended to cut down on binge and underage drinking.
Since graduating from high school a few years ago, Emily, a 21-year-old from South Carolina, has studied at the College of Charleston, the University of South Carolina and a few community colleges.
At each college, her story was the same. “I kept messing up,” she says. “I was caught up in the party lifestyle and got involved in drugs. Everywhere I went, it ended terribly.” But after Emily hit bottom and went to detox, her family helped her enroll at a different kind of institution, where long-term recovery and academic success are both priorities.
College students drink a lot of alcohol. Administrators try to stop them. We know this. But a new study evaluates how well colleges and universities actually address alcohol abuse on campus, and it turns out that the most effective methods aren’t the most common.
This semester, Wesleyan University administrators modified the student Code of Non-Academic Conduct to ban the “misuse or abuse” of prescription drugs. This inclusion is not unusual; many colleges, including Wesleyan’s peer institutions, ban prescription drug abuse in their student codes. But the case of Wesleyan is an anomaly because of the ban’s origins.
A few months ago, a drink called Four Loko caught the attention of students, colleges, news media and politicians across the country. Its dangerous mix of lots of caffeine and lots of alcohol made it a target of the Food and Drug Administration, which eventually outlawed the beverage – though it has since returned, sans the caffeine.
Dubbed “blackout in a can,” Four Loko and the craze it spawned ultimately fell off the college radar.