As college students, it is the unfortunate reality that alcohol abuse is something that we have most likely witnessed at some point during our four years at university. One of the bigger reasons as to why we might see the abuse of alcohol during our college years is because most college students reach the legal drinking age of 21 before they obtain their bachelor’s degree. Because the legal drinking age is 21, and most college campuses are beer and wine approved, most people don’t see the harm in binge drinking — it’s totally legal right? Well, yes, the law does not stop you from consuming alcohol, but your body definitely obtains some negative outcomes.
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The “Binge Drinking Trap”
First off, before we can discuss just how harmful alcohol abuse is to our bodies, we first have to define what binge drinking is and why it plays a role in alcohol abuse. According to The Recovery Village, binge drinking can be categorized as consuming more than 5 drinks (for men) or 4 drinks (for women) on the same occasion. Because we see a spike in binge drinking during college years, we unfortunately see a handful of students who suffer from alcohol abuse even after they graduate from their universities, as heavy alcohol use is a risk factor leading into alcohol use disorder later on in life. After presenting numerous studies, it is quite apparent as to how easy it can be for a college student to begin their alcohol abuse path from binge drinking alone.
Additionally, we can look into why we see so many college students falling into the “binge drinking trap.” For most college students, going away to stay at university is the first time in their life that they are handed a sparkling platter of freedom. These college students are now a number of miles away from the authoritative figures in their life, and they now have no one to tell them what to do. Even more dangerous, they now have no one to tell them what not to do. Because of this, most new university students have a “rebellious streak,” where they experiment with new substances — most commonly, alcohol.
Alcohol is something that we see many college students trying because it is not an illegal substance. Additionally, more than 25% of students report having and using a fake ID to purchase alcohol underage. Another reason as to why we might see so many college students willing to experiment with alcohol, is because of the media’s positive portrayal of alcohol consumption. Not only does the media normalize underage drinking by including it in a handful of commercial TV shows and movies, but they also put an emphasis on needing to consume alcohol to have “fun” at parties, or needing to consume alcohol to seem “cool” to your friends.
More Than Just a Hangover
Consequently, we see negative effects both in physical and academic health for college students who abuse alcohol. First, we can explore how alcohol abuse negatively affects our physical health. Some short-term effects of alcohol abuse on our bodies include:
- Lowered inhibitions
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of critical judgment
- Dulled perceptions (especially to our vision)
- Mood swings
- Reduced core body temperature
- Raised blood pressure
- Passing out
Additionally, we can list out the long-term effects of alcohol abuse on our bodies:
- Diminished gray and white matter in the brain
- Memory loss
- Loss of attention span
- Trouble learning
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Liver fibrosis
- Mouth, larynx, breast, liver, colorectal or esophageal cancer
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat.
I don’t know about you, but I for sure would not want to risk any of these short- or long-term effects just to seem cool and fun to a new group of people. To group the short- and long-term side effects together, we see a drinking-related health issue called alcohol poisoning. This causes confusion, nausea and vomiting, slower or irregular breathing, blue-tinted or pale skin, low body temperature, unconsciousness and seizures. With all the negative health issues alcohol abuse can cause to our bodies, it’s hard to imagine why any college student would even consider binge drinking.
College Binge Drinkers: Don’t Become a Statistic
To add, we can discuss the negative effects of alcohol abuse on college students’ academic health. To do so, this paragraph will include alarming statistics that will for sure grab your attention:
- 1 in 4 students report academic problems associated with drinking too much, leading to lower grades overall
- Students who binge drank three or more times weekly were also five times more likely to miss class
- Students who binge drank three times per week or more were six times more likely to perform poorly on class projects or tests as a result of their drinking
I truly believe that if college students were presented with these statistics before entering college — like if these were presented during their first-year orientation — we would see a decrease in college students falling down the “binge drinking” trap that, as we see, eventually leads to some form of alcohol abuse.
To conclude, I hope that this informative blog post helped shine a light on the negative impacts of alcohol abuse amongst college students. It is never my goal or my intention to scare anyone out of doing anything; however, it is my mission to provide you college students, or even you future college students, with some background knowledge so you can make responsible decisions once in college. College is fun and college is scary; trust me, I am right here with you. But ultimately, we chose to go to college to further our academic education, not our alcohol education. So with all of this in mind, I hope to see all of you thrive through college by making responsible decisions.
LiveScience. “Fake-ID Use Is Common, Fuels Underage Drinking.” October 18, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2020.
College Drinking. “College Drinking—Facts for Parents.” (n.d.). Accessed August 5, 2020.
Lipari, Rachel; et al. “A DAY IN THE LIFE OF COLLEGE STUDENTS AGED 18 TO 22: SUBSTANCE USE FACTS.” SAMHSA, May 26, 2016. Accessed August 5, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.