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Binge Drinking and Norms of Blacking Out

Binge Drinking and Norms of Blacking Out

Introduction

Did you know that most people confuse blacking out with passing out? However, they are not the same as passing out is the loss of consciousness while blacking out is a result of excessive consumption of alcohol within a short time that has similar effects to amnesia. Studies have indicated that numerous blackouts do not only lead to memory lost but can also produce harmful effects to the brain (Hingson, Zha, Morton, & White, 2016). Meanwhile, binge drinking is the excessive intake of alcohol. In the U.S, binge drinkers are around the age of 26 and above. They drink for fun, to test their tolerance to alcohol, rebel and forget about problems. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin suggests that about 51 percent of its students experienced a blackout at least once in their past year. Unfortunately, most of these students were also unaware of the dangers they exposed themselves into by drinking excessively. Furthermore, students believe that it is a normal and acceptable behavior to get drunk until having a blackout. This paper will discuss the problem of binge drinking and blackout connected with it, one strategy that can help solve this problem and its application.

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Binge Drinking and the Blackout Problem

In the U.S., about half of college students consume alcohol, which negatively affects their health and academic performance. Normally, alcohol in large amounts impacts the transfer of information from short-term memory into long-term memory (Hingson et al., 2016). Moreover, students who consume much alcohol experience a personal injury, poor academic performance, risky sexual behavior and even death. In addition, some studies have shown that people become more prone to blackouts after their first blackout. Unfortunately, most students think that drinking till a blackout is a normal partying experience (Prince, 2014).

The main factor behind excessive drinking is that most students overestimate their peers’ consumption of alcohol while the societal environment encourages risky drinking behavior. Usually, social norms affect human motivation to certain behaviors (White & Hingson, 2014). In particular, normative conduct provides a short way of making decisions. Thus, a student who sees everyone doing a certain thing will automatically assume it to be an appropriate behavior. To some extent, students even consider normative conduct as expected conduct.

Normally, there are no physical ways to tell that a person is blacked out because he/she is usually engaged actively in behaviors such as talking and walking but unable to store memories of the events. Intoxicated people can remember immediate information after its presentation and even store it in short-term memory for a minute or so if not distracted. Moreover, they can have long-term memories before a blackout but when they continue drinking, impairment of information transfer to long-term memory occurs. Thus, it is possible for a person to appear moderately intoxicated while in reality he/she is experiencing a blackout.

While it is difficult to tell the signs of a blackout, the only best way to indicate it is the amount of alcohol a person takes. Considering that in one hour liver metabolizes one ounce of alcohol, one can estimate a blacked out person by comparing the speed at which they drink alcohol and the rate at which it is metabolized. Another sign of a blacked out person is the repetition of their sentences, forgetfulness of something said or where someone is and being highly distracted. Another sign of a blackout is the lack of concern for feelings and thoughts of others (Winner, 2016). Therefore, a blackout is a severe result of heavy drinking since a person can still actively carry out activities that are dangerous to those around them and forget about their actions the next day. Nevertheless, most students are afraid of blackouts and are cautious when consuming alcohol since it can be troublesome to wake up with no recollection of the events of the previous night.

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Problem Solving Strategy

The liking strategy by Cialdini can be used to influence young people, especially students to avoid drinking until a blackout. The liking strategy suggests that people tend to agree with people they like or know. Friends share a liking bond of either physical attractiveness, similarity in character, compliments offered, familiarity or contact, cooperation, conditioning, and association (Cialdini, 2009). Moreover, people tend to acknowledge good-looking people, hence giving them a social advantage. Usually, it happens automatically as attractive people are attributed with honesty, intelligence and kindness. Meanwhile, similarity between individuals influences their liking due to similar personality traits, lifestyle, and opinions. As for offering compliments, people tend to believe praise and like those who offer it. People tend to be positive towards compliments even though someone may be using them for their own benefit (Cialdini, 2009). Regarding familiarity, people tend to like things they are constantly in contact with. For example, one may vote for a political leader just because of familiarity. Likewise, the cooperation approach works when people face a common crisis and realize they need a unified action, for example, combining resources to solve the crisis. Thus, common goals unite people. Conditioning an association refers to situations when innocent people are associated with either bad or good things, which influences other people’s reactions to them, for example, using the pronoun we when a hometown soccer team wins and failing to use the pronoun when the team fails. Thus, from the characteristics above, it can be inferred that the excessive drinking problem can be resolved if a group of familiar students champion self-controlled drinking.

Cialdini gives several examples of scenarios where the liking strategy prevailed. One of those examples was an experiment showing that attractive people are more likely to receive help when in need. Moreover, they were found to be more persuasive in changing people’s opinions, even of student of the same sex (Cialdini, 2009). Thus, attractive people in the current culture enjoy many social advantages as they are more liked, frequently assisted and seen as possessing a great intellectual capacity. Apparently, adults considered aggressive actions performed by attractive children less violent, and teachers presumed them to be cleverer. Therefore, using good-looking people for a campaign against blacking out would make a progressive change.

Social media platform is another example of persuasiveness of liking. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have grown to about one billion registered users and used their social network to create awareness and promote a positive behavior change. An example is the power ballad application that gives power feedback through Facebook (Foster & Lawson, 2016). It sensitizes users on energy consumption by carefully embarrassing participants who use more energy between two time periods. When more energy is used, the public social media posts in a playful manner that more energy is being used for peers and friends to view on the users’ timeline.

Application of the Strategy

To solve binge drinking and blacking out, a campaign against heavy drinking should be initiated. The campaign should start by identifying suitable people to support it, most of whom should be students. The appropriate choice of students is necessary for reaching out to peers since people of the same age group tend to listen to each other. The identified student’s body would then form a committee that would be in charge of overseeing the implementation of group policies and goals. The committee would be chosen from the students who have confidence when it comes to promoting the campaign. They would be encouraged to come up with suggestions and strategies that are considered suitable to be included in the campaign. One helpful strategy would be to approach first-year college students and engage them in a friendly conversation that gets them talking about their drinking behavior and other people’s drinking behavior (Chapman, 2016). The reason why first-year students would be a suitable target to educate on blacking out and binge drinking is that they are in the transition process from high school to college. Therefore, there is a need for them to find a balance between their expectation of college life and the reality as its while trying to make sense of their surrounding, some of them engage in heavy drinking habits that they perceive as a norm.

After that, a catchy slogan would be coined so as to attract as many students as possible. Most times, an interesting phrase is enough to make people curious of what it is associated with, hence provides an opportunity to attract new campaigners. After agreeing on a slogan, the next step would involve coming up with the main goals, policies, and regulations of the campaign. Any movement that aims to reach success would have to be well-organized from the beginning to avoid chaos in the future. Hence, there is a need to write down the terms and conditions under which the campaign would operate. The next activity would involve making a schedule for conducting meetings and publicizing the campaign. The time set needs to be favourable to as many group members as possible as well as for the target audience. The next step would involve deciding on the ways to publicize the campaign as well as encourage new members to join. To publicize the campaign, social media tools and other posts around the campus, such as notice boards would be used. The posts would contain messages informing students about binge blackouts and possible ways to avoid them, assisting students with alcohol-related emergencies, encouraging alcohol abstinence, and urging people to tell their friends to stop drinking when they have taken too much (Chapman, 2016). To promote the campaign and make it even more fun, entertainment gigs would have to be set up once in a while in collaboration with the school authorities. Besides, trips and adventures such as camping would be organized once in a while.

The next step would involve generating suggestions by members on how to raise funds needed for the campaign. Members could themselves volunteer to print pamphlets or approach other people who could support the campaign and convince them to support the group. This step helps the students to promote the campaign and adopt what the campaign is promoting at the same time. Moreover, the group committee would be required to give feedback after every two or three months regarding the progress of the campaign. Evaluations would have to be made regarding the students who received the campaign and its impact them as well as those who have to receive it yet. Moreover, the challenges undergone when campaigning and possible solutions to them would be discussed. Any questions or suggestions on the way forward would be tabled. From the suggestions, the best way to make the campaign effective can be adopted, thus reaching more students and saving those who are already drinking until a blackout.

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Evaluation of Binge Drinking and Blackout Strategy

The campaign of solving the binge drinking and blacking out problem among college students is feasible because it is a student initiative targeting other students within the same college. Moreover, the results of empirical studies suggest that efforts to correct students’ perception about peer drinking decreases the consumption; therefore, the campaign is likely to yield positive effects (Prince, 2014). Additionally, since the main target is first-year students, the sample size will have to be managed in stages and probably by their residence hall until the whole population is reached. Thus, by the end of the first month, about a half of first-year students will have been reached. As estimated, reasonable results may be achieved after a period of two months since by the campaign will have reached to a large number of students. Meanwhile, since educational and social support will be needed, the campaign officials will be expected to approach school administrators and inform them about their goals and ask for their support when organizing events. As for social support, alcohol industries could be approached and requested to sponsor the campaign advocating for responsible drinking behavior.

Nevertheless, the proposed strategy may face several limitations, with the first one being a small number of members. The majority of the invited members could disregard invitation due to the pressure to fit into the norm, hence limiting the number of active campaign participants. Another limitation could be insufficient funds to promote the campaign since most students depend on their parents and have no independent source of income. Another drawback could be the lack of societal or educational support as people may underestimate the purpose and capability of the campaign. The last major limitation is that the campaign faces opposition from an influential norm that attracts students to engage in typical drinking behavior.

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Conclusion

Young people and especially students often consider drinking as a fun way to spend time, but it can become dangerous if one does not know when to stop. Thus, excessive drinking causes blacking out, which, in turn, leads to memory loss. Some studies have showed that most binge drinkers are around the age of 26 who drink for fun, testing their tolerance to alcohol and trying to forget problems. In addition, college students get drunk to the point of a blackout since they believe it is a norm. Unfortunately, although 51% of students at the University of Winston end up drinking by experiencing a blackout, most of them are unaware of the devastating effects that repeated blackouts can cause.

The proposed strategy to deal with binge drinking and blacking out is likely to reduce excessive drinking because there are already students who are against drinking until a blackout. When such students experience support from people with similar views, they are likely to persuade more people to both join the campaign and sensitize others to the harm of over-drinking. Moreover, since most first-year students engage in binge drinking due to perceiving it as a norm, they will have a possibility to see different perspectives and probably try to avoid excessive drinking. In addition, since some students engage in blacking out for the lack of knowledge of its effects, once informed about the expected outcomes of possible brain damage, they will be more likely to avoid drinking until a blackout. Thus, the next step after formulating the campaign strategy against binge drinking and blacking out is to implement it. In this way, the strategy will impact students in different ways, facilitate obtaining feedback from the groundwork and thus establishing a way to improve the campaign so as to encourage more students to avoid binge drinking and blacking out.

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