April 4, 2007

Speaker Addresses Trends in Drinking

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High-risk drinking is marked by the consumption of five or more drinks consecutively, and, according to The Core Alcohol and Drug Survey conducted by Gannett in 2005, 31percent of Cornell students reportedly consume, on average, five or more drinks in one night.

Cornell was one of 53 universities nationwide to participate in the survey disseminated by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in order to research and assess alcohol consumption, and develop alcohol and drug prevention programs.
Randy Haveson, a professional speaker who specializes as a high school and college speaker on alcohol and other drug-related issues, used The Core Alcohol and Drug Survey to develop a “Party With a Plan” program that offers a unique approach to drinking called the “0-1-2-3 Code.”

This code gives college students guidelines to drinking safely in order to avoid high-risk drinking. “The code is the only way to stay safe while drinking,” Haveson said.
Each number signifies a different concept to remember while drinking: sometimes having zero drinks is the safest idea, never to consume more than one drink per hour, not to drink more than two nights per week and not to consume more than three drinks in the course of a single night.

Haveson, after overcoming alcohol and drug addictions himself, developed the code as a new approach to curb high-risk drinking among college students.

“The problem is that we never teach people how to drink,” Haveson said. “We teach people how to drive cars and play sports, but you never really learn how to drink alcohol safely. This program provides guidelines that students can follow that effectively teach them how to drink safely.”

Haveson is encouraged by the results of his program thus far. After speaking at Brown University, 26 percent of attendees said that his presentation would affect their decisions regarding alcohol use.

According to the Core Institute’s survey, high-risk drinking has steadily increased among college students. At Cornell, however, the percentage of students who reportedly consume five or more drinks per night dropped from 32.9 percent in 2003 to 30.5 percent in 2005, according to the survey results on Gannett’s website.

“At Cornell, we realize many students choose to drink at higher levels, and their risk of harm increases with greater levels of alcohol consumption,” said Timothy Marchell ’82, director of Mental Health Initiatives at Gannett and chair of the President’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. “Haveson’s plan is consistent with the harm reduction approach we take at Cornell. We want students to understand the consequences of drinking and reduce the risk of students who do choose to drink.”

“It’s obvious that you have to be intelligent to be at Cornell,” Haveson said. “But sometimes the most intelligent people make unintelligent choices. At a university such as Cornell, there is going to be a ‘study hard, play hard’ mentality. There are world-changers at Cornell University; I would hate to see one of those people make a choice that will negatively impact their future and the future of our world.”

Among Cornell students, particularly women, those who participate in the Greek system tend to engage in high risk drinking behavior more than others. In the 2005 Core Survey, 72% of sorority women reported consuming 5 or more drinks in one night, compared to 36% of non-sorority women.

In a press release addressing these statistics, Katie Seeley, president of the Panhellenic Association, said, “We in the Panhellenic community realize the need for a proactive approach in dealing with this important issue and will be working with Gannett to educate our members about safe drinking behavior.”

Core Institute survey results also revealed in 2005 that 73% of Cornell students had consumed alcohol within 30 days of taking the survey, compared to 72% of students nationwide.

“Cornell is very similar in regards to statistics surrounding alcohol to other universities across the country,” said Marchell. “But we are also doing a lot to reduce high risk drinking. Any student can call Gannett at any hour and receive help for a friend who has been drinking. That is what we are trying to communicate — that students can and should get help for themselves or for friends.”