Safety Tips for College Drinkers

Risk-Takers Face More Danger While Drinking

College students drinking and laughing at party
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Researchers have found that college students who drink alcohol may get themselves into trouble not necessarily because of how much they drink, but more because of their risk-taking attitudes while they are drinking, which can be modified to reduce harmful consequences.

Professors at Kansas State University have found that males tend to be greater risk takers when it comes to alcohol, while women tend to use more protective strategies.

They recommend the following steps to all college students who drink as a way to avoid dangerous drinking episodes:

  • Limit the number of drinks consumed
  • Use self-protective strategies
  • Limit money spent on alcohol
  • Drink with friends
  • Pour your own drinks
  • Develop low-risk attitudes

Reducing the Problems

Steve Benton, professor of counseling and educational psychology, Ronald Downey, professor of psychology, and Sheryl Benton, assistant professor of counseling and educational psychology and assistant director of Counseling Services, studied college student drinking, attitudes of risk and drinking consequences.

"My belief is that we have to face the fact that a certain percentage of college students will drink," Steve Benton said. "So, what can we do to reduce the likelihood of them getting into trouble?"

Attitude Makes a Difference

"Students who tend to have attitudes that make them greater risk takers are more likely to get into trouble when drinking," Benton said.

"Even when controlling the amount of alcohol, it's not how much you drink that affects the amount of trouble, but how risky you are."

Benton said in a news release that "if a person doesn't care what others think and doesn't worry about laws, then they're more likely to get into trouble. Those with a lower-risk attitude will get into less trouble."

Males Drink More

"We know that males tend to be heavier drinkers than females," Benton said. "The more you drink, the more you get into trouble. We found that the protective strategies are especially beneficial to male students, because they drink more than females, as well as to students who have six or more drinks."

"Student who drink more heavily also are more likely to experience harm from their drinking if they have high-risk attitudes. When they go to parties, they should be aware of their behavior and how much they're drinking," he said. Benton recommends "pacing" drinking over several hours.

Self-Protective Strategies

"Even students who have more than six drinks are less likely to experience harm if they practice self-protective strategies," Benton said.

The Kansas State group will next research the best ways to communicate about drinking issues to students. "If you begin to talk to an individual about risky behavior, you have to understand where they're coming from," Downey said. "Some individuals talk about risks, but some don't like to."

Source: The Kansas State study findings were presented at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. See: Kansas State News Release.

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