Getting Wasted

Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard

229 pages

August, 2011

ISBN: 9780814788325



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Thomas Vander Ven is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ohio University and author of Working Mothers and Juvenile Delinquency.

All books by Thomas Vander Ven

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.


  • “Vander Ven analyzes the college drinking culture in an entirely new way --- through the eyes of college drinkers themselves. In doing so, he brings a unique voice to the college drinking debate, which will shape the discussion for decades to come. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand college drinking and its consequences.”

    —Kathleen A. Bogle, author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus

  • “A book of enduring significance, persuasive enough to reframe how a social problem is fundamentally understood. Vander Ven’s analysis deepens our understanding of college drinking, how it works and its appeal.”

    —Amy Best, author of Fast Cars, Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars

  • Getting Wasted weaves many detailed stories of college drunkenness into a compelling account of its communal nature. Students don’t drink alone or get drunk alone. They do it together and the togetherness helps explain their otherwise baffling, self-destructive activities. This book is must reading for anyone interested in college students, drinking, and the combination of the two.” 

    —Howard Becker, author of Outsiders: Studies In The Sociology Of Deviance

  • "The book offers a realistic portrayal of socially bonding drinking behaviors and attitudes.  Vander Ven suggests stellar ways campuses can reduce the harm of excessive drinking."

    —Library Journal

  • "The book is worth a read to get students' perspectives on the binge-drinking culture, and provoke thought on how to address the problems that stem from it."

    —Teresa Malcolm, National Catholic Reporter

  • "[Thomas Vander Van's] book is an imoprtant contribution to understanding this social problem."


  • "Vander Ven...leads the reader through a well-researched and comprehensive overview of college drinking...I would urge anyone preparing for college, or preparing another for college, to read this book."

    —John S. Wodarski, Contemporary Psychology