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NMSU project focuses on reducing binge drinking

How many shots of alcohol does it take to fill a plastic, red solo cup? The answer is 11 and that?s just one of the questions New Mexico State University students are asking fellow students as part of the ?Aggies Winning Choices: Awareness, Education, and Smart Decision-Making about Binge Drinking? project. 




Woman holds a shot glass and a man holds a plastic cup.
Jennifer Stacy and Jonah Barnes-Moore, New Mexico State University public health seniors, are peer-educators on the research project ?Aggies Winning Choices? to help educate students about alcohol consumption and reduce binge drinking among undergraduates. (NMSU photo by Tiffany Acosta)
A student (left) attempts to drive a remote-controlled car while another student watches.
As part of New Mexico State University?s three-year NCAA CHOICES grant for ?Aggies Winning Choices: Awareness, Education, and Smart Decision-Making about Binge Drinking,? students working on the project held events throughout the fall semester at locations across campus. Demonstrations at a Corbett Center event included students learning about the effects of drunk driving by wearing simulated goggles and attempting to navigate a remote-controlled car. (NMSU photo by Tiffany Acosta)

?Aggies Winning Choices? is a three-year NCAA CHOICES grant and collaboration between NMSU?s Department of Public Health Sciences in the College of Health and Social Services, NMSU Athletics Department, Campus Health Center and NMSU Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education (WAVE) program, which began in fall 2015. The $30,000 grant aims to reduce binge drinking in NMSU undergraduate students using social marketing and a harm reduction perspective by raising awareness about the topic. 



?Our goal in writing the grant was not to moralize with students and tell them there is only one choice and that is not drinking, but our goal was to help students learn that when you engage in drinking to understand where you limitations are and to make smart choices,? said Satya Rao, professor, undergraduate program coordinator and graduate public health certificate program coordinator. ?That?s the focus ? to know when you can drink and when you drink too much ? to understand that line that we all have and it?s very personal.? 



Binge drinking is defined as consuming several alcohol drinks in a short period of time, typically five drinks for men and four drinks for women in one sitting. 



According to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, each year about 2,000 college students die from alcohol-related injuries, while about 700,000 students are assaulted by another student and about 100,000 students are victims of sexual assault or date rape by another student, who has been drinking. 



At NMSU, about 33 percent of students don?t drink alcohol, 46 percent have reported binge drinking, and of the students who drink, 71 percent don?t drink and drive. 



?Aggies Winning Choices? is a student-driven project. Student-athletes and non-athletes were trained as advisers and peer-educators to work at events across campus to educate students about alcohol and their relationship with alcohol. During the first semester of the three-year project, events held during the fall included hosting a table at Corbett Center to talk to students and a stress busters? night for student-athletes. 



In addition to in-person events, ?Aggies Winning Choices? is using various forms of communication tools to reach students. A website (http://www.winningchoices.org) along with Facebook (Aggies Winning Choices) and Twitter (@Winning_Choices) pages were created for students to find support, facts, events, survey and contact information. The project also printed resource cards to supply students with phone numbers of support organizations and local police departments. Informational fliers with facts and tips to encourage smart choices are also available to students. 



Not only is having an open dialogue about alcohol with students important, but also Rao said she believes it is a serious issue that shouldn?t be dismissed easily. 



?The idea is to create a culture on campus where it is OK to talk about alcohol abuse and misuse and for students to voice what are the challenges they face in making smart decisions? Rao said. 


?If you grew up and didn?t have that conversation with the adults in your life, and suddenly you come to a place where you relatively have a lot of freedom, it?s really hard to carefully manage your decision-making without developing those skills,? she continued. ?The idea is to create a culture where it is permitted for students to say ?I?m having some difficulties so what do you think I should do?? whether they go to the counseling center or talk to a student mentor or peer mentor or a faculty member. I think getting that conversation going and creating a normative system on campus allows for those conversations.?



Future plans for the project include working with students in fraternities and sororities along with family housing in the spring, and developing and broadcasting public service announcements in the second and third year. 



For more information on the project visit http://www.winningchoices.org.