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New program dispels drinking misconceptions

December 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
How many alcoholic beverages do you drink at a party? You'd be surprised what some college students say. Many binge because they think their peers drink even more. A new program at Loyola Marymount is working to dispel misconceptions about college drinking and educate at the same time.Loyola Marymount doesn't have a party school reputation, but students there believe their peer's party just as hard as the rest of them. Sophomores Pat Costello and Pete Drummond don't think their drinking is excessive at all.

"I'll consume say I'm sticking with beer, maybe over a two hour or three hour period I'll have around ten beers," said Drummond.

"I don't know, I'll drink maybe six beers," said Costello.

The latest national survey shows about 85-percent of college age student's drink. Half of those binge drink which means they take in about five or more in a row.

"Let's face it we all want to fit in, but particularly in this age stage people are very heavily influenced by their peers," said psychology professor Dr. Joseph LaBrie.

Dr. LaBrie directs Loyola Marymount's HeadsUp Program.

"The biggest number of students who are going to have substance abuse on campus are those who were already experiencing the substances, that were already drinking and using drugs in high school," said Dr. LaBrie.

HeadsUp holds seminars where staffers hand out interactive devices that instantly tabulate kids' responses to questions. The results reveal most students don't drink as much as their peers think they do.

Fraternity president and HeadsUp volunteer Sean Grant says its habit-changing information.

"I'm 21 years old and I go to parties. I go to bars with my friends, but it's actually taught me the healthy way to drink alcohol," said Grant. "I use it very moderately and I've seen a great impact on my life."

Another alarming statistic that HeadsUp uncovered is that one out of four students misuse prescription drugs -- like Adderall or Ritalin to stay awake.

"I live in a dormitory," said Dr. LaBrie. "I'm a faculty resident in one of the dorms and over the years I've heard repeatedly people yelling down the hallway, 'Has anybody got any Adderall?'"

Dr. LaBrie says stimulant use has grown almost 100-percent on campus, and the kids most likely to misuse prescription drugs are heavy drinkers.

"Often the misuse might be because they need to stay focused, and you know alcohol disrupts one's ability to sleep," said Dr. LaBrie.

It's a vicious cycle. Experts say parents need to step up and give kids balanced, but realistic messages about the consequences of substance abuse and how it can ruin what college is all about.

"You're here to get a great education," said Grant. "You're here to meet new diverse people to expand your world view and the best way to do that is be in the best mindset."

Experts say college drinking is related to about 1,500 deaths every year on college campuses and leads to about 600,000 unwanted sexual experiences -- including rape.


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