The University Record, October 28, 1998

Abuse of alcohol a serious concern

By Jane R. Elgass

Binge drinking among U-M students “has been a serious concern for some time, and a major problem on most college campuses nationwide,” says Maureen Hartford, vice president for student affairs. “Administrators throughout the country are struggling with this issue,” she said.

While alcohol has not been officially named a factor in the death of first-year student Courtney Cantor on Oct. 16, the fact that she had been drinking the evening before at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity has raised awareness of the issue to new heights on campus.

Hartford prefers “risky” drinking as a descriptor, noting that “it creates impaired judgment that, when coupled with youth’s perception of invulnerability, sets up a lot of dangerous situations.”

According to a 1993 survey of U-M undergraduates, 42 percent of men and 29 percent of women acknowledged at least one episode of binge drinking (five or more drinks in one sitting) in the two weeks prior to the survey.

Hartford said that in serving alcohol, Phi Delta Theta “put more than 100 students at risk. I fear this is not happening just one night, but many nights in many places, on campus, in fraternities and sororities, in apartments, in bars.”

“This is not just a Greek system problem,” she said, “or just a University of Michigan problem, but a societal problem. We have to work on changing the culture that produced this situation.”

Hartford said the issue of student drinking is somewhat of a paradox. She cited some of the characteristics of undergraduate students identified by Art Levine in his book When Hope and Fear Collide—demanding of change, socially conscious, sexually active, heavy users of alcohol, optimistic about the future.

“This is so contradictory. We have wonderful, hardworking, change-oriented, focused-on-service students who turn around Friday and Saturday night and drink themselves unconscious. It just doesn’t fit.”

The University has had a number of programs in place for some time that address the issue of student drinking, but the message doesn’t seem to be getting through, Hartford noted. With that in mind, in September she appointed a Binge Drinking Task Force that is charged with bringing forth recommendations to change students’ behavior with respect to alcohol use and abuse.

“It’s clear,” Hartford explained, “that messages such as ‘Don’t drink’ or ‘Drink responsibly if you do drink’ do not have the effect we hoped for. We need to create multiple ways of delivering messages that will create new social norms around the issue of alcohol use.”

According to the 1993 survey, U-M students consistently overestimate their peers’ use of alcohol while they under-estimate their peers’ desire to curb this use. “This contributes to a great deal of misinformation about campus norms,” Hartford noted.

The task force will propose “specific actions we can take to begin to change the culture and diminish binge drinking on campus,” Hartford said. The group, which is to complete its work next term, will not conduct any studies but will take a look at programs, services and “messages” used by other colleges and universities.

“This terrible accident focused a lot of attention on the work of that group,” Hartford noted. “It brought home to campus the reality of the danger.”

Binge Drinking Task Force members are Marsha Benz (chair), University Health Service; Peggy Bradley-Doppes, Athletic Department; Carol Boyd, Substance Abuse Research Centers; James Christie, student; Deb Kraus, Counseling and Psychological Services; Sean McCabe, Office of Student Conflict Resolution; John Mountz, Interfraternity Council adviser; David Schoem, assistant vice president for academic and student affairs; John Schulenberg, senior research associate, Institute for Social Research; and William Zeller, University Housing.


U addresses problem drinking in variety of ways

The University responds to concerns about problem drinking in a variety of ways, including:

• Alcohol-free activities on Central Campus and on North Campus as part of student activities programming.

• Education and prevention initiatives through the Substance Abuse Education Network.

• The 1993 University of Michigan Alcohol Policy that sets expectations for students, annually mailed to each student.

• Greek Life Alcohol Policy that prohibits kegs, developed and implemented in 1991.

• Workshops for students identified as having drinking problems, handled through the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs with funding support from the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education.

• Training of residence hall staff on substance abuse.

• A specialist in alcohol and other drugs in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and an alcohol and drug educator at University Health Service.

• Online self-assessment of drinking, called AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test), at www.umich.edu/~caps/audit.html.

• Free assessment of substance abuse at CAPS through the two-hour Assessment of Substance Abuse Patterns (ASAP).

• Online information about student attitudes toward drinking and available resources at www.umich.edu/~caps.

• Creation of the Greek Social Environment Task Force by the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic, charged with examining the role alcohol plays in the Greek community.

• Major speakers addressing issues of alcohol abuse, including Mike Green who will be here Nov. 16.

• Informational materials at University Health Service include books, videos and interactive videodisks that are available to students and student groups.


Do you have a drinking problem?

 

Counseling and Psychological Services has developed this self-test—AUDIT: Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test—that you can use to find out if you have a drinking problem.

Read each question carefully and answer all the questions even if they do not apply to you. Compute your score by adding up the numbers beside each of your answers.

 

1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

____ never (0)

____ monthly or less (1)

____ 2 to 4 times a month (2)

____ 2 to 3 times per week (3)

____ 4 or more per week (4)

2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?

____ not applicable (0)

____ 1 or 2 (0)

____ 3 or 4 (1)

____ 5 or 6 (2)

____ 7 to 9 (3)

____ 10 or more (4)

3. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?

____ not applicable/never (0)

____ less than monthly (1)

____ monthly (2)

____ weekly (3)

____ daily or almost daily (4)

4. How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

____ not applicable/never (0)

____ less than monthly (1)

____ monthly (2)

____ weekly (3)

____ daily or almost daily (4)

5. How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?

____ not applicable/never (0)

____ less than monthly (1)

____ monthly (2)

____ weekly (3)

____ daily or almost daily (4)

6. How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

____ not applicable/never (0)

____ less than monthly (1)

____ monthly (2)

____ weekly (3)

____ daily or almost daily (4)

7. How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

____ not applicable/never (0)

____ less than monthly (1)

____ monthly (2)

____ weekly (3)

____ daily or almost daily (4)

8. How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

____ not applicable/never (0)

____ less than monthly (1)

____ monthly (2)

____ weekly (3)

____ daily or almost daily (4)

9. Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

____ no (0)

____ yes, but not during the last year (2)

____ yes, during the last year (4)

10. Has a relative, friend, doctor, or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

____ no (0)

____ yes, but not during the last year (2)

____ yes, during the last year (4)

 

____ TOTAL SCORE

 

What Your Score Means:

BELOW 8: You probably don’t have a diagnosable alcohol problem, but if you are concerned about how alcohol is affecting you, you should make changes.

8 to 11: You may very well have reasons to be concerned.

11 to 15: There are some serious indications that your drinking is a problem.

ABOVE 15: You most likely have a drinking problem.

 

For help or further information, students should call Counseling and Psychological Services, 764-8312. Faculty and staff should call the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, 936-6350.


You can always drop us a line: urecord@umich.edu.