Fresh research from Leuven University shows that 37% of first year students are drinking too much. The figure has risen sharply over the past five years. In 2013 only 26% of students were drinking excessively.
Binge drinking has arrived in Flanders with a vengeance. KU Leuven quizzed 2,700 first year students and came up with staggering results. Nearly four out of ten students are drinking too much, are experiencing black outs or have a problematic relationship with alcohol.
During the first three months of the year 220 people spent a night in a police cell due to public drunkenness. More often than not these individuals were students. Each year ambulances have to make 500 trips to assist somebody who's inebriated. These are not always students, but often they are.
Vice rector Chantal Van Audenhove believes it's important to convince people to act in a responsible fashion. The university stages numerous actions. Recently students could offer to be breathalysed. If they were sober, they got a free breakfast.
Leuven University also works closely with the city authorities, prevention officers and the police. Faculty bars that liaise with the police have opened. The university now hopes to involve student clubs too. There's also attention for problematic drinkers. Get a nuisance fine because of excessive drinking and you'll be invited to discuss the damage drink is doing to your body with fellow drinkers. KU Leuven is also banking on new technology. Together with the Health House virtual reality is now used to tackle problematic drinking.