Party Culture and Substances at CC

Students dancing on the quad

At CC, as well as at many other colleges in the United States, there are students who choose to engage in substance use in harmful ways, many times within a party context. There are, however, many students who choose to use in moderation and some who abstain entirely. While we don't condone the use of alcohol by students under the age of 21 or any use of federally illicit substances, we like to highlight the ways in which CC students who do choose to use, do so in responsible ways that mitigate their risks for harm. From the 2017 NCHA American College Health Assessment (ACHA), we found that most students did the following most of the time, or always when they partied within the last 12 months:

  • Used a designated driver
  • Ate before and/or during drinking
  • Stayed with the same group of friends the entire time
  • Kept track of how many drinks they consumed

These are all behaviors that aim to keep students safe. We believe that being knowledgeable of the ways one may engage in substance use responsibly helps students identify more harmful behaviors and is part of being a BADASS active bystander.

Social Norms

We also talk about social norms in our work. It is common for students to overestimate the prevalence of substance use on campus, and these misperceptions can put pressure on students to use, and perhaps use in larger quantities. When asked on the 2017 NCHA ACHA, what percentage of your peers do you think drank alcohol in the past 30 days, CC students said they thought it was 98% of their peers. In reality, 84% of students had reported any use in the past 30 days. Even more dramatically, when asked a similar question about marijuana use in the past 30 days, CC students said they thought 97% of their peers had used it. The actual reported number was 49%. It is important for students to know that the community of students who choose not to engage in substance use is larger than they may have thought.

Movies and other media also sometimes glorify excessive consumption, particularly of alcohol, which can have dangerous consequences. Pacing yourself to one drink per hour (that is about one 12-ounce can of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or one shot of liquor) is generally a good rule of thumb for maintaining a consistently low blood alcohol content (BAC). Drinking lots of alcohol all at once will cause a large spike in BAC which has the potential to induce vomiting, loss of consciousness, and even coma or death. If you choose to drink, it's always better to drink less over a longer period of time.

Through our work, we engage students in conversation around party culture, challenging norms, and helping students clearly define goals and expectations that are consent-oriented, inclusive, and trauma-informed. While substances do not need to be included at parties in order for party-goers to enjoy the experience, they often are under the misperception that partying and substance use are innately tied together. This creates challenges for party-goers, hosts, and the institution.

Substance Use Risks

Alcohol is the most abused substance on our campus and, according to the 2017 NCHA ACHA survey, it has been linked to higher rates of physical injury, mental health challenge, and instances of non-consensual and unprotected sex. Similarly with abuse of many other substances, the escape from reality that users experience under the influence of alcohol may be appealing. However, this detachment makes it harder for people to pick up on social cues which are critical in upholding our community values of creating spaces that are consent-oriented, inclusive, and trauma-informed. With heavier drinking and/or mixing of substances, this essential communication becomes even more difficult, though it is never an excuse for perpetrator behavior.

In addition, the patterned abuse of substances in college can stick with an individual after they graduate and later on into adulthood. While binge-drinking (that is 4 or more drinks in a sitting) may seem like the norm in a college party setting, outside of this context it is certainly not. Both within and outside the college context, it is damaging to an individual's health. It is important to note though, that more than half of CC students who drank, did not binge-drink the last time they partied according to the 2017 NCHA ACHA. While at CC, we encourage students to practice healthy coping mechanisms, connect with resources, and think critically about their own use so that unhealthy patterns may be avoided, or recognized and managed later into life. While we recognize that not all students who engage in substance abuse will identify as addicts and seek recovery, we also believe that maintaining a healthy relationship with substances is a continuous process across the course of a lifetime.

Report an issue - Last updated: 08/22/2022