By the Numbers: Alcohol use at MSU
Every year in colleges across America, around 1,800 students die from alcohol-related injuries. Whether it is drunk driving or alcohol poisoning, these students’ lives have ended because of drinking.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder. However, if you were to talk to students about this fact, some would repeat a quote they heard themselves so many times: “you are not an alcoholic until you graduate.”
Cara Ludlow is the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Program Coordinator for MSU. The first thing she believes students need to hear is that the aforementioned quote is false.
"You can develop an alcohol dependency at any point in your life," Ludlow said. "I have seen 14-year-olds that are alcohol dependent, I’ve seen 16-year-olds, 18-year-olds, I’ve seen 70-year-olds who are alcohol dependent.”
Despite this culture, MSU is seeing signs of change. During annual surveys, the amount of alcohol that students are reporting drinking has been decreasing, with 60 percent of students reporting drinking less than 3 drinks when going out.
Ludlow supports this data.
“We actually overall have trend-line decreased, particularly in the amount of alcohol that students are drinking," Ludlow said.
If the normalization of drinking in college is the problem, Ludlow believes education may be one of the best ways to counter it. After all, it takes only one person to change the path that others will follow, she said.
With education, MSU is at the forefront of change.
“I think students are becoming better educated, I think they have a good understanding of what types of protective factors to use if a student chooses to drink," Ludlow said.
One of these protective factors is remaining in the same group while drinking, with 87 percent of MSU students reporting they follow this practice. 1 in 4 student report not drinking at all when they go partying.
“I think we definitely have a percentage of students that do experience academic harm related to alcohol and some of those we have seen little bits of up kick in term of how it is affecting their grade," Ludlow said. "Overall, most of the times they are making good decisions."
These changes are not only seen by MSU.
Each year, the East Lansing Police Department releases a report detailing the total number of arrests made for each offense. Between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2013, ELPD has made 1,569 arrests for liquor law violations. This averages to around 516 arrests per year, of which 2 in 3 cases involved males.
The next available data is from 2015. The number of arrests for liquor law violations in East Lansing dropped to 394. Whether this is because of a change in policies, or a change in the culture itself, the fact is less people are being arrested for alcohol laws violations.
This trend is mirrored by Michigan data, with the number of liquor law violations statewide falling from 18,000 in 2010 to 12,000 in 2015.
If students want to continue to drink but want to reduce some the harm or figure out how to manage it in a different way, Ludlow said MSU is here to help.
“We have a very, very robust collegiate recovery community for students who are in recovery from a substance abuse disorder,” Ludlow said. “We really like to start where students are at.”