Amid the flashing lights, pounding music and a fog of Juul vapor, students congregate at Molly’s, a local dance club and bar.
Grinding on a crowded dance floor and singing from the cages, Bearcats clutch plastic cups full of ice and alcohol.
It’s not the weekend they celebrate. It’s Wednesday. It’s Mug Night.
What students may not realize as they sing “Sweet Caroline” and take a swig of their Pool Water drink, is they may not just be out partying. They may be an untreated alcoholic.
According to the Mayo Clinic, alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol.
Take a look at the blotters and count how many alcohol infractions, minors in possession and DUIs there are. Northwest students like to drink.
According to American Addiction Center there are five types of alcoholics: young adult alcoholic, young antisocial alcoholic, functional alcoholic, intermediate familial alcoholic and chronic severe alcoholic.
Most college-aged alcoholics fall into the young adult alcoholic category, where they may have fewer days when they drink, but when they do, they binge.
Binge drinking is when a person has four or more drinks in two hours or less. For women, it’s a minimum of four, and for men, it’s a minimum of five. The Center of Disease Control labeled it as “the most common, expensive and dangerous form of alcoholism.”
According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 40% of all college students engage in binge drinking. Roughly 12% of college students binge drink on five or more occasions per month.
It may not seem like much, but if broken down, that’s roughly 853 Northwest students or three out of 25 students who binge drink on five or more occasions per month.
Alcoholism among college students often goes untreated, despite resources being readily available.
Sophomore Ben Hayen, who works at Hy-vee Wine and Spirits, said it’s also because they don’t see it as an option.
“There’s kind of a stigma around drinking in college,” Hayen said. “People may not realize they have a problem or they might see it as a sign of weakness, even though it’s not.”
When going to Wellness Services, students are required to fill out a survey, with questions asking about their drinking habits. These questions are then repeated in the actual clinic visit.
“We have a lot of opportunities to seek help,” Hayen said. “But it’s up to students to take advantage of it.”
Maryville bars have nights where patrons only pay a cover charge and then they can have unlimited drinks as they party.
As a small town with a college campus, it’s lucrative business to sell alcohol. With more than 20 establishments that sell alcohol, not counting each gas station, students have their pick of where and what to drink. Add on special deals like Ladies Night at Molly’s, Trivia Night at The Pub and Bottomless Cup Night at Powerhouse, students can spend time binge drinking for a cheaper price.
This “drinking culture” isn’t just a Northwest issue. The idea of binge drinking is prevalent on college campuses nationwide and pushed in media.
Movies such as “Animal House,” “Neighbors” and more have popularized the idea that college students drink to excess. Whether it’s the stereotype of Greek Life throwing ragers in their basements, tailgating at a football game or just as a way to bond and socialize with other students, media has influenced how students view alcohol.
Greek Life is often depicted as drinking and partying, however, senior Payton Jobe, a former sorority member, said Northwest Greek Life takes a hard stance against underage drinking but understood the importance of also providing support to stay safe.
“From my experience, Greek Life was consistent with enforcing their rules with alcohol,” Jobe said. “There were always people available to provide rides to and from bars or anywhere that members had been drinking.”
Studies have also found that the more students are exposed to a university environment, the more likely they are to binge drink.
Binge drinking doesn’t just impact a student’s weekend. Like any addiction, alcoholism impacts a student’s chances of success.
While many can spout off the short term effects of excessive drinking such as poor decision making, vomiting and passing out, students may not realize the long term effects such as memory loss, inability to concentrate and trouble learning. All of which are vital skills to succeed in college. Students who binge drink are also more likely to skip class.
Binge drinking physically affects the body as well, with higher chances of cancer, liver disease and kidney failure.
Jobe said her major gives her a unique perspective on binge drinking.
“As a dietetics major, I think about the science behind how alcohol works in the body,” Jobe said. “Though their drinking does not directly impact me, it certainly relates to me and my future career. Alcohol actually acts as a diuretic. This means that alcohol makes you get rid of the water in your body, which is why you pee a lot when you drink and it looks clear. It can be used as energy.”
Jobe said this energy needs to be used immediately or else it gets stored as fat in the body. Alcohol can also cause people to “get the munchies.”
“For a college student wanting to lose weight or trying to meet fitness goals, it’s not so great,” Jobe said. “When you drink a lot you’re probably not thinking about going home and eating the salad, rice and grilled chicken that you had put in your meal plan. You probably want Taco Bell or a grilled cheese which could negatively impact your health goals.”
Not only are students more prone to put their academics and health at risk but also their lives and the lives of their fellow students.
In 2017, drivers ranging from 16 to 24-years-old made up 42% of drivers involved in fatal drunk-driving crashes.
Binge drinking also plays a major role in suicide among college students. Students who are binge drinkers are 75% more likely to attempt suicide, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
While drinking can have a negative impact, it’s not necessary for Northwest to enact a new prohibition.
In a study conducted by Theresa Kessler, when she increased the amount of awareness of alcohol’s negative impacts, fewer students engaged in binge drinking.
So while alcoholism among college students may not look severe, it’s results can still affect the community.
As students stumble along the sidewalks, laughing about their antics, they also risk tumbling down a path of addiction.