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Binge drinkers recklessly abuse alcohol

Reed Schneider, Opinion Editor
February 6, 2013
Filed under Opinion, Top Stories

In May, binge drinkers will be labeled as alcoholics. Revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 could classify 40 percent of college students as suffering from mild alcoholism.

The changes to take effect with DSM-5 are the disposals of the terms dependence and abuse, according to Time, CNN and the New York Times. Instead of the two separate categories, the change rates alcoholism in severity. While it may seem a drastic adjustment, society needs a wake-up call to the issues college students deal with.

Prior editions of the DSM included categories of short-term alcohol abuse, implying the less severe cases such as college binge drinkers, according to CNN. If the changes are finalized, college binge drinkers will no longer have that free pass in diagnosis. Instead, any problems that arise from a night of binge drinking would therefore qualify for symptoms of alcoholism, according to Time.

Dr. Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University and former chair of the DSM-IV task force, agrees with the study, but he doesn’t approve how it’ll label college students, who are at a crucial period in their lives, as alcoholics for the rest of their lives, according to CNN.

“The DSM-5 decision to lump beginning drinkers with end-stage alcoholics was driven by researchers who aren’t sensitive to how the label would play out in young people’s lives,” Frances said. “Diagnoses made casually and based on insufficient evidence can stick with someone for life, causing needless stigma and affecting job and insurance opportunities long after the substance problem has resolved.”

On top of the stresses of grades, new social interactions and financial issues, the last thing 40 percent of college students need is a diagnosis declaring them alcoholics. Maybe we need to take a closer look at our cultural norms if 40 percent of college students abuse alcohol.

We live in a society dictated by the word “more.” The more alcohol college students can consume before they puke and pass out, the higher their status among their friends. Labeled or not, that’s an abuse and misuse of alcohol. Students who use parties as a temporary solution to problems or simple stress relief can end up creating more problems for themselves. They need to find better ways to cope with issues and may need help doing just that.

University of Pennsylvania professor of psychiatry Dr. Charles O’Brien thinks the changes to DSM-5 can help care for the problems of alcoholism while students are at their early stages, according to Time.

“We can treat them earlier,” O’Brien said. “And we can stop them from getting to the point where they’re going to need really expensive stuff like liver transplants.”

According to Time, the changes have yet to be finalized, but this should serve as a message to people who repeatedly participate in binge drinking. If not a sign, then it should at least implant questions in their minds. “Why do I need to get drunk?” “Is this becoming a problem?” “Is there a better way to direct my frustration and stress?”

There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks with friends. Trouble does not arise from a single drink after a long day. The crisis appears when dangerous levels of intoxication become an objective from the start.

Consistently reckless actions taken while intoxicated are a problem derived from alcohol abuse. Consider whether alcohol is a distraction or a form of entertainment. Think about whether it’s used with good times or for good times. If 40 percent of college students can’t reign in and take a moment to consider their relationship with alcohol, don’t they deserve to be labeled as mild alcoholics?