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‘Women on Wednesdays’ talk to provide a short course on ‘Alcohol 101’

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Feb 16, 2018 at 11:45 PM

Counselor Loren Biggs says the widening cultural acceptance of drinking is contributing to local trends in alcohol abuse.

At a Feb. 21 “Alcohol 101” lecture as part of East Tennessee State University’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, she will take on that upward trend.

In last year’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report, the United Health Foundation found a 29 percent increase in excessive drinking in Tennessee.

The free public talk, which will be sponsored by the ETSU Women’s Studies Program, will begin at noon in the presentation room of the campus Multicultural Center in the D.P. Culp University Center.

Biggs believes alcohol consumption is widespread in today’s culture, citing occasions such as “happy hours” and “bottomless mimosa” brunches, which she said encourages some people — many of whom are college students — to drink irresponsibly.

As a counselor and coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Outreach in the ETSU Counseling Center, she aims to provide basic alcohol education and address current trends, such as the trend cited by the United Health Foundation. She will also address alcohol consumption trends both nationally and on campus, based off of the most recent data available.

In terms of substance abuse at ETSU, she said alcohol remains the biggest concern.

“It’s mostly alcohol. We’ve had a few other concerns, but I’d say 90 percent has been alcohol,” she said.

In the 2015 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment for ETSU, Biggs said 52.8 percent of students reported drinking in the past month, and 20 percent reported regular binge drinking. She said there will be more research next year to see if these numbers have increased, but based on some national trends, an increase could be likely.

Biggs said the gender gap between men and women who drink has been narrowing over the years. While it was previously thought that men engaged in binge drinking more often, she said this has started to change in recent years.

“I think one of the contributors is that there’s a movement among both genders that it’s more socially acceptable to drink,” she said. “What we’re seeing is that the gender gap with drinking is closing.”

Through self-reporting, campus counselors like Biggs have gained insight into the state of binge drinking at ETSU, but she said it’s still often difficult to obtain accurate data.

“If you’re surrounded by people who drink as much as you do, it’s hard to have that reflective experience about it being too much,” she said. “Shame is also a big part of why people won’t talk about their drinking, and if they have negative consequences from drinking, they might not want to talk about that either.”

During the lecture, Biggs said she will also discuss counselors’ harm-reduction approach that aims to educate students and community members about the choices they can make to drink responsibly and the resources they may access to support their health and wellness.

For more information on the lecture, call Dr. Phyllis Thompson, director of ETSU Women’s Studies, at 423-439-4125.

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