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Editorial: Dangerous drinking

A recent study conducted by Medical Center researchers based partly on a survey of 772 Duke undergraduates has some very disturbing results. In an unsurprising statistic, considering the alcohol-dominated social scene on campus, 74.2 percent of students reported having drank alcohol within the past two weeks. But what is frightening is that of those students, 9.4 percent report having drank so much in the past two weeks that they have blacked out. Moreover, 51 percent of students reported that they have blacked out at least once in their lives.

Blacking out occurs simply when the drinker does not remember anything about what he or she did during the period in question. Although the actual blacking out is not harmful, the fact that one drinks enough to black out is indicative that one is drinking well past any safe level of consumption. This high level of alcohol consumption has substantial, negative physiological effects of which many students are probably not aware.

The most serious threat is that one might die from overconsumption. But consuming so much alcohol that one blacks out also is conducive to numerous unsafe activities, such as unprotected sex or vandalism. Additionally, overconsumption has negative effects on long-term memory. That is, a student who tries to cram in some studying before going out to party on a Thursday evening will be doing his or her studying a grave disservice by drinking so much as to blackout.

However, the most disconcerting result of this study is not that 51 percent have blacked out once, since anybody is capable of making a mistake once. What is disconcerting is that close to 10 percent of drinkers at Duke blackout once every two weeks.

Most Duke students are not stupid and therefore should not be engaging in this type of excessive, unsafe behavior. Students should take the results of this study to heart and change their behavior for the better, realizing that drinking to the point of blacking out has serious consequences that can adversely affect safety, academics and other aspects of a student's life in direct physiological ways.

This does not mean that Duke students should not drink at all. This is all about how much one drinks and drinking responsibly. Students can both drink and be safe, but current habits are very unsafe if students are blacking out so regularly.

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