It's a reality for students that with newfound independence comes a bigger chance high-risk behaviors could hurt them.

Virginia Tech has gained national recognition for a program it's developed to try to solve the problem.

Party Positive was developed a few years ago and is one program out of many that Tech uses to curb the dangers of drinking whether they're out at the bars or on campus.

Believe it or not, Party Positive doesn't preach "Just Say No."

Instead it encourages students that choose to drink that if they say "Yes" they do it as responsibly as possible.

It may not sound like much,  but last Saturday night, LewisGale Hospital in Montgomery County had six 18 to 23 year olds in its Emergency Room because they drank too much.

The hospital can't tell us if they were all Virginia Tech students, but the head of the ER says it's fair to make an assumption.

"In our numbers that we look at, most definitely, it can be a correlation," said Lisa Edwards, head of LewisGale Montgomery County's Emergency Room.

Despite that, overall, students are drinking less, this according to multiple studies and Steve Clarke.

Clarke runs Tech's Alcohol Abuse and Prevention Center and helped design Party Positive.

The program doesn't encourage kids to drink, but encourages them if they're going to do it, to be smart.

"One of the reasons you don't focus on an abstinence type program is that it doesn't work. Students are already drinking when they get to college, about 72%," Clarke said.

Clarke calls it harm reduction.

Instead of fighting what's seemingly inevitable with newfound independence, Party Perfect embraces it in a way.

"The emphasis is having a positive social experience and if you do choose to consume, how to make sure you don't have or to eliminate negative outcomes," Clarke added.

So does it work?

Freshman Connor Baker has only been on campus for a week, but sees the logic in Party Positive.

"It definitely wanted to lead you more towards not drinking but they still have the option, they say drink safely or being safe while you drink, they preach that," said Baker.

Older students like Edward Turner says the program certainly has its merits, but his friends still don't always make the best decisions.

"I think they take a little bit away from it. They still drink a little more than I think they should," Turner said.

Clarke stands by the practical approach, saying the binge drinking numbers at Tech are going down.

It's a feat he's proud of; letting students be independent, while giving the tools to act like an adult safely.

Obviously, drinking is still prohibited in dorms.

Clark tells says he gets between 850 and 1000 students in his office every year with substance abuse problems, he says "99%" of the time it's alcohol; still an issue, and one Clarke and campuses across the country continue to try and resolve.

Faculty involvement is the next big step for Clarke.  He says better training faculty to listen to warning signs or find ways to dissuade students from harmful drinking could be a huge step.


The school year is underway or about to be for college students across the country.

For many students, college means independence, and many students make a choice to drink.

At Virginia Tech, they don't necessarily dissuade students from doing it, but encourage them to do it responsibly.

So the big question: Does it actually work?

Tonight at 11 we'll talk to the head of Virginia Tech's alcohol abuse program, and ask students whether or not the programs make them think twice about their alcohol consumption.