Why Do College Students Drink?
Published on August 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

Before I started drinking, I always assumed there was some sort of complicated explanation for why people drank. Like, maybe they lived in a small town, and there was nothing else to do. Then I started drinking, and realized that people drink because it's fun. In fact, I've always sort of regretted not drinking in high school - I feel like alcohol would have made the whole experience more bearable.

Administrators and public health officials hardly ever acknowledge how much fun drinking is when delivering their grim reports and stern lectures on underage drinking. For instance, they might talk about the need for more alcohol-free on-campus activities, but never mention that some students are going to drink regardless of how many alcohol-free on-campus activities there are. Why is this? Because drinking is fun! And some nights you might think, "I'd really rather hang out and get drunk with my friends than go to the on-campus screening of 'Farwell, My Concubine.'" Of course, college being college, you can go to the movie sober, and then stay up until 4 a.m. drinking with your friends. Which is fun!

Over at Salon, Thomas Rogers interviews Thomas Vander Ven, an associate professor in the department of sociology at Ohio University, whose new book, "Getting Wasted," looks at what attracts college students to alcohol in the first place. Here's an excerpt:

"The history of alcohol research is the history of pathology. There's a lot of focus on addiction, and the ways in which alcohol destroys lives and destroys families, and in [the] college drinking world in particular, there are these long lists and inventories of all its harms. That's important because some bad things do happen, but what past researchers have missed is why it's fun. I asked that question of my informants, and I could tell it was the first time that anybody asked them that -- 'Did you have fun?' 'Yeah, of course I had fun.' OK, so, what was fun about it? What are the payoffs? And I think it's important to know because if people are serious about understanding this issue, and what's behind it and what to do about it, they need to understand what college kids are getting out of drinking."

Sounds about right. Sure, alcohol can be harmful, but its reputation as a social lubricant is well deserved. Some of my most memorable college experiences involve long nights of drinking. And, no, I have no regrets.

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