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Experts say binge drinking connected to alcoholism

By Hailey Mallendick, For The Miami Student

"It's just college" is the excuse many Miami students, and college students across the country, use when they drink too much alcohol on a regular basis. But, the line between harmless social drinking and a potential addiction to alcohol can become blurred in the college environment.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 19 percent of college students that fell between the ages of 18 and 24 could be described as alcoholics. However, only 5 percent of them sought treatment.

Drinking among Miami students generally starts during their first few weeks on campus.

According to the Alcohol Task Force 2015 Report, the national average of first-year students who engage in binge drinking and other high-risk drinking behaviors is 28 percent.

However, at Miami, the average for first-year students who engage in the high-risk alcohol behaviors is 35 percent.

While some medical professionals think it could be a major problem, some students disagree. They notice issues with alcohol and binge drinking, but do not think too much about it since they believe everyone is trying to have fun in college.

Senior Allie Davis is a bartender at The Wood's and often sees people who have had too much to drink.

"I think there is alcoholism prevalent on this campus, but it is not any more severe than other campuses," Davis said.

Junior Sydney Hanzlik has a very similar viewpoint.

"There have been times where my friends drank way more than they should have," Hanzlik said. "I usually just make sure they don't get into trouble and later make it home safely. I don't think it means that they have a problem, though, it was probably just a bad night."

While some students do not see much of a problem with their drinking habits, it could easily develop into a problem after graduation.

Joshua Hersh, a board-certified psychiatrist at the Miami University Counseling Services, treats students with various substance abuse problems, including alcoholism.

"There is a clear link between early drinking and a higher lifetime risk of alcoholism," Hersh said.

According to Sarah Benton from Psychology Today, many college-aged students who participate in binge drinking often "phase out" of the habit, but there are still some who never do and develop alcoholism.

Hersh suggests that students engage in other activities that do not involve drinking.

"I do think students can have fun without drinking," Hersh said.

Late Night Miami hosts free events to all students every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Along with Miami programs such as Late Night Miami, the Alcohol Task Force is continuously working to lower the percentage of students who drink heavily.