Alcohol and bystander intervention

The term “drunk support” refers to the social nature of the college drinking scene, in which students push each other through the party with drinking games and gifted shots, but also help each other with bagels and water and escorts home. It’s coined by Thomas Vander Ven, an Ohio University associate professor of sociology, in his new book out today, Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party Too Hard (NYU Press).

If colleges were to acknowledge that this system exists – whereby students who drink also take care of each other when they throw up, counsel each other when they’re upset, and intervene before situations get out of hand — and if they encouraged students to employ harm-reduction strategies in these settings, they could join forces with those very students to minimize risk, Vander Ven concludes.

“Part of the reason why students continue to engage in dangerous drinking practices is the significant drunk support that they provide to one another when crises arise,” he writes. “Many college students are already mobilized to reduce the potential harms produced by collective intoxication. Maybe it is time to get the drinkers themselves more instrumentally involved in making college drinking a less dangerous enterprise.”

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