Just like everyone poops, everyone drinks—some more than others. The idea that you can’t be a “real” alcoholic until your post-college years is one that’s often entertained by NYU students. After all, hasn’t every movie we’ve seen taught us that part of college is getting drunk with your girls/bros? We get that every once in a while, you may become so engrossed in your conversation about alt-lit on a Brooklyn roof-top that you just can’t remember if this is your fourth of seventh PBR; however, new research has shown that the prevalence of alcoholism among women is growing.
While this on its own is enough to cause any parent to lie awake at night and worry about how many Jell-O shots their far-away NYU student has done, it is especially troubling when paired with a May study that found that women in college binge drink more than do their male counterparts. And, when you consider that Greenwich Village reports more alcohol-related emergency room visits than almost any other neighborhood, it’s not difficult to conclude that heavy drinking and female NYU students are at least in part responsible.
As troubling as binge-drinking may be, it’s difficult to find an NYU student who doesn’t either know at least one female student who has been hospitalized due to alcohol-related injury or illness, or has been hospitalized herself.
“I definitely binged a lot last year…I was hospitalized twice, but I cut back because I didn’t want to fuck my health up,” said Tisch sophomore April*. While LSP sophomore Jenna has not been hospitalized herself, she agrees that excessive drinking is a problem within the female NYU community, saying, “About 1/3 of my female friends have been to the hospital for something related to alcohol.”
Just like we saw in the after-school specials of our youth (“Come on, all the cool kids are doing it!”), there is inevitably pressure to go crazy and get “smashed” within the NYU community.
“I definitely think there’s a pressure socially to drink a lot. It’s like if you don’t take more than one shot, you’re lame,” says LSP sophomore Erin.
“I think there are a lot of women at NYU who drink in excess because of NYU’s unique nightlife. Getting black-out drunk just seems to be a natural part of the world of promoters and clubbing,” says Steinhart sophomore Angela, who swears she’s not blaming Amanda Sarah for the rise in alcoholism in women.
While researchers are not entirely sure what is driving the growth in female alcoholism, they have entertained the idea that women are drinking more in an effort to feel empowered in a male-dominated culture, something recognized by female NYU students.
“I feel like women who can keep up are praised as being one of the guys,” says GLS sophomore Kelly. Angela expressed the same sentiment, saying “I think [there’s a] coolness attributed to being ‘one of the guys.’ I think this becomes a problem when the guys involved are encouraging the girl, not realizing that this is a kind of peer pressure that is just as dangerous as more obvious types.”
Some male students also recognize that women are pressured, sometimes unintentionally, into drinking more to keep up with their male counterparts. Upon reflection, one male CAS sophomore admits to being guilty of this, saying, “I maybe slightly…pressure women into drinking more than I do men, but it’s not a conscious decision. I pressure both genders.”
Another possible cause of the growth in alcohol abuse among women is the Sex and the City mindset that any problem can be solved by popping open a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and drinking until your toes feel numb.
“I use alcohol as a way to forget about my boy troubles,” says Erin. LSP sophomore Meredith agrees, saying, “It’s a nice way to stop thinking about a specific thing because it [helps] unfocus your thoughts, and women really do tend to overthink stuff.”
However, on a greater, more worrisome scale, some women are drinking not just to loosen up, but rather as a means of self-medication.
“I know my breakup was a time of immense drugs and alcohol,” says Kelly, who admits to drinking more during times of emotional distress, “I have a bad day, I take a shot. If I’m [on my period] and it hurts, I take a shot. Essentially whenever I’m in any sort if pain or stress, I take a shot. And I know a lot of my other friends do to. Like I’m the one who drinks the least in our friend group.”
Jenna agrees that alcohol is used as an emotional crutch among her peers, saying, “Everyone uses alcohol to ‘numb the pain.’ My roommate last year once became so drunk that she couldn’t move, all the while shouting about her parents and how this was going to teach them a lesson. She went to the hospital.”
“My mother was an alcoholic for many years before she had me and she’s been sober for 27 years. A lot of it had to do with things that happened to her in her childhood that she wanted to cover up with alcohol.” says Tisch sophomore Liz. “I never [self-medicate with alcohol], because I have such an addictive personality that I know it would destroy me.”
Like they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, maybe the first step to recovery is recognizing the problem. So instead of brushing off a drunken night that ends in someone puking into a subway grate as one of those archetypal college experiences, maybe we as a community should recognize that one-too-many drinks now can lead to years of abuse.
*All names have been changed.