Rethinking Drinking

TRU students develop a binge drinking toolkit

Sarah Harrison and Marcia Vergilio

Web-only article from "Campuses" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 4 (3)

We’ve been there

It’s Monday morning and you have class first thing. You hit the snooze button on your alarm at least three times. When you’re finally up and walking, you can still feel the headache you had all weekend, the remnants of a bad hangover. As you slip into class just after the bell, you notice some classmates staring and one winks at you. You sink back into your chair and think to yourself: Why are they looking at me like that? Do I know him? What happened on the weekend?

Many people would picture this scenario as the average Monday morning for a college student. Not remembering the weekend because of drinking too much—that’s the norm, isn’t it?

Planting safer ideas about drinking

That college and university is about full-time drinking and partying is a common misconception of the public and students alike. Binge drinking is an issue for most universities across the country, and the Counselling Department at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) decided to do something about it.

As fourth-year nursing students, we have an opportunity to work with community organizations, to develop projects focused on the people they serve. We, along with Leah Wegner and Lianjing Cui (also fourth-year nursing students), are working with the TRU Counselling Department to develop a binge drinking toolkit. The kit is intended for use by the TRU Counselling Department to reach the student population.

The purpose of the kit is to provide tools for informing campus students and youth in general about binge drinking. Our project is particularly aimed at students who have probably never thought their drinking habits were a problem. Our goal is to plant an idea, to get the students to start thinking about their drinking habits.

The types of information we want to pass on to students and youth in general are:

  • drinking myths and facts

  • non-alcoholic drink alternatives

  • risk-reducing tips

The information will be presented in various formats that are easy for a service provider to use and easy for students to relate to. Methods and means to help the toolkit user get the information out to the student population include:

  • PowerPoint presentation

  • posters

  • articles

  • advertising

  •  interactive games

  • take-away packages

Statistics on alcohol-related harms, and myths and facts about binge drinking, will be displayed via more passive media like PowerPoint and posters. Activities such as games and providing mocktails (cocktails without alcohol) will engage students more interactively. For example, in a balloon-popping race, there is a question related to binge drinking inside each balloon; participants who pop the balloon and answer the question correctly get a prize. And, in addition to sampling mocktails, students can take away packages that contain mocktail recipes, safe party tips and treats.

The goal of our project is not to stop students from drinking altogether, but to encourage healthier and safer drinking habits. Some safer drinking habits include:

  • keeping track of how much you drink

  • alternating one alcoholic drink with a drink of water or another non-alcoholic drink

  • eating before, during and after you drink

  • before consuming any alcohol, planning how much you’re going to drink and how you’re going to get home

Taking these steps can slow alcohol’s effects in the body and decrease the risk of drinking too much and loosing control.

Hoping to change habits

The toolkit will hopefully get students more informed, and get them thinking more seriously about their drinking habits and the drinking habits of their peers.

We are planning to present the toolkit at the Wellness Fair, an event hosted by the TRU Wellness Department. Once we present the project, we’ll to ask the students to evaluate it.

We have already received positive feedback from discussing the project with various nursing and addictions professionals. Nurses and different organizations in the community have also expressed interest in using parts of the project in their community programs or designing their own versions of the toolkit.

The four of us have a unique opportunity to be able to share our knowledge while relating to the students on their level. We’ve been there with the late nights and the cramming sessions, the drinks with friends and the weekends you can’t remember. We’ve also spent four years learning about how health influences every part of our lives. We may not be changing the world, but we feel we have something valuable to share with our peers. We hope they’ll listen.

 
About the authors

Sarah is a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Thompson Rivers University. She has discovered many areas of interest in nursing, especially health promotion and working with youth.

Marcia is a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Thompson Rivers University. She looks forward to graduating and being able to travel with her nursing degree.

 

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