BINGE drinking problem being addressed in Stillwater

Friday, August 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's back to school for millions of college students across America. Medical experts say an alarming number of them have serious problems with alcohol. That's according to a recent report from the American Medical Association.

News on Six reporter Tami Marler says college life, in Stillwater, is the first shot at independence for most kids. Unfortunately, some think getting drunk is a part of growing up. Stillwater’s strip. It's notorious among young people, as a place where beer is always pouring, at the right price. Billy Bourne, OSU Student: "Yeah, there's always people that drink just to just to really get messed up." Still, this kind of welcome back in college towns all over the country is troubling those in the medical and law enforcement communities. Stillwater Police officer Ron Benningfield says there were nearly 1,500 alcohol-related charges in Stillwater last year, up about 60% from the year before. DUIs alone are up nearly 74%. The majority of arrests were college-age young people. "That shows that, not only are we doing more enforcement, but there's a lot more people out there drinking. Not only do we have to worry about our safety, and the safety of the drivers, on the roadways. But we also have people that drink to the extent that it causes medical problems."

Problems that, in many cases have ended in death. Not only that, a report from the American Medical Association says there's a strong link between binge drinking and sexual assault. So what's being done to address the problem? "Don't allow alcohol in the fraternity houses at all, so uh, very rarely - if at all - will we even have alcohol in the house." Fraternities and sororities say the answer is in keeping alcohol off campus. Eskimo Joe's is addressing it as well. Robert Williams, Eskimo Joe's: "We don't feel like we have a big issue, but the reason is because we monitor it. You know, we ask people to say 'hey you've had enough' and we do cut them off." Williams says Eskimo Joe's employees go through training to recognize the signs of over-drinking. Part of the problem is nobody knows how much barhopping they've been doing before they walk through Joe's doors, and the effects can hit all at once. "Stumbling, falling down, lot of times we have altercations between people that are drinking, and their demeanor a lot of times is a good indication of how much they've had to drink." Too many times, they've had too much. "People just kind of joke about it, how they don't remember things. But it's really pretty serious.”

Stillwater Police have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol-related crimes. For public intoxication, open container or carrying a fake ID, they'll fine you $240. But even more serious, selling alcohol to a minor, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and interfering with an officer will cost you $540. That's a lot of money for a college student. Expert’s say many college students don't even know what binge drinking is. You know it's a problem when: You miss classes, or feel tired or sick during class after drinking the night before. You feel embarrassed because of something you did after drinking. You’re not as prepared as you should be the morning after. Or you have memory lapses from drinking. These are signs you may need to look at the role drinking is playing in your life.