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Getting Wasted

Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard

Thomas Vander Ven
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 229
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  • Book Info
    Getting Wasted
    Book Description:

    Most American college campuses are home to a vibrant drinking scene where students frequently get wasted, train-wrecked, obliterated, hammered, destroyed, and decimated. The terms that university students most commonly use to describe severe alcohol intoxication share a common theme: destruction, and even after repeated embarrassing, physically unpleasant, and even violent drinking episodes, students continue to go out drinking together. In Getting Wasted, Thomas Vander Ven provides a unique answer to the perennial question of why college students drink. Vander Ven argues that college students rely on drunk support: contrary to most accounts of alcohol abuse as being a solitary problem of one person drinking to excess, the college drinking scene is very much a social one where students support one another through nights of drinking games, rituals and rites of passage. Drawing on over 400 student accounts, 25 intensive interviews, and one hundred hours of field research, Vander Ven sheds light on the extremely social nature of college drinking. Giving voice to college drinkers as they speak in graphic and revealing terms about the complexity of the drinking scene, Vander Ven argues that college students continue to drink heavily, even after experiencing repeated bad experiences, because of the social support that they give to one another and due to the creative ways in which they reframe and recast violent, embarrassing, and regretful drunken behaviors. Provocatively, Getting Wasted shows that college itself, closed and seemingly secure, encourages these drinking patterns and is one more example of the dark side of campus life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4441-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 THIS IS THE SHIT SHOW! An Introduction to College Drinking
    (pp. 1-19)

    Many college students like to get wasted, train-wrecked, obliterated, hammered, destroyed, and fucked up. The terms that university students most commonly use to describe severe alcohol intoxication share a common theme: destruction. But what is it that they are trying to destroy? Are heavy drinkers tearing down one version of theirselfand constructing another? Are they obliterating the boring, everyday, unproblematic world in which they live and replacing it with the Shit Show, where anything can happen? “The Shit Show”¹ refers to a chaotic drinking episode characterized by dramatic drunk enness, human wreckage, and primitive behavior. It is a...

  6. 2 GETTING WASTED: The Intoxication Process
    (pp. 20-49)

    Go find a drunk and give him a breathalyzer test. The test results will reveal some number representing his blood alcohol concentration. And that figure will help you to determine whether or not he should operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery—but does that single measure really capture his intoxication? How did he get that way? What did he drink? Who was he with and where is he going now that you’ve finished experimenting on him? We can apprehend a person’s level of intoxication by using scientific methods to place drunkenness at a fixed point, but intoxication is much...

  7. 3 BEING WASTED: Fun, Adventure, and Transformation in the World of College Drinking
    (pp. 50-78)

    Who wouldn’t envy Jason? He had a cheering section! And this is no isolated incident. For college drinkers, being wasted often draws a good measure of peer support. While anger, tears, arguments, and violence can emerge during a drinking episode, students also reported feeling demonstrably appreciated—even celebrated—by their codrinkers. The mutual appreciation shared by fellow travelers is part of the emotional payoff of the drinking episode:

    It was actually a great night to go to Walt’s [a bar] because I walked in and knew just about everybody there and some people I hadn’t seen in a quite a...

  8. 4 WHEN EVERYTHING FALLS APART: Meeting the Challenges of the College Drinking Scene
    (pp. 79-119)

    Kim had a rough night. Her claim that it “almost killed” her is one we should take seriously given the large amount of alcohol that she reportedly ingested. If her recollection of how much alcohol she consumed is accurate, bystanders should have made sure that she received medical attention. Kim was lucky. Tragically, some college drinkers are not so fortunate. Consider journalist Barrett Seaman’s account of a fatal night of drinking:

    Over the 2004 Labor Day weekend . . . 19-year-old Samantha Spady, a sophomore at Colorado State University . . . told a friend in an IM exchange that...

  9. 5 THE MORNING AFTER: Hangovers and Regrets
    (pp. 120-152)

    Okay, so you got obliterated last night. You got staggering drunk, puked in front of the burrito vendor, peed your pants, and got in an argument with a complete stranger because you didn’t like the “stupid” hat he was wearing. That’s alright. Your friends were there for you. They apologized to the burrito guy, assisted you home so you wouldn’t get pinched for public intoxication, and helped you change out of your pants. And the guy with the stupid hat was wasted too. He probably forgot the whole thing. You are out of the woods, right? Wrong. The College Drinker...

  10. 6 USING DRUNK SUPPORT Responding to the Persistence of Heavy Drinking
    (pp. 153-182)

    Stephanie’s sobriety pledge lasted a whole week. Is this rational behavior? While she was obviously exaggerating about “dying a few times,” she was clearly traveling in Shit Show territory. But Stephanie was not deterred by this unfortunate episode. Why would she choose to dance with alcohol again after it treated her so unkindly that night? Many nondrinking college students just don’t understand this reasoning. The recklessness of heavy drinkers doesn’t make sense to them. Abstainers (those who choose not to drink alcohol at all) are a significant subpopulation on college campuses. And they appear to be as firmly committed to...

    (pp. 183-190)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 191-198)
    (pp. 199-206)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 207-214)
    (pp. 215-215)