If the statistics are correct, college tends to be a breeding ground for alcohol abuse. When young people move away from home for the first time, they experience a new-found independence that could lead them to drink and behave in ways that would otherwise be considered risky or irresponsible. College can be stressful, and consuming alcohol may seem like an excellent way to blow off some steam, but it can also lead to some serious issues. The fact is that far too many college students abuse alcohol and this overconsumption can be dangerous on many levels.

Why Drinking is Prevalent on College Campuses

While some students have their first taste of alcohol on a college campus, this is not the norm. A study on college drinking by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed that over 60 percent of students had already experimented with drinking before they arrived at college. For many, they simply continued or accelerated their alcohol use once they went away to college. Some students also mimic what they experienced in their home environment. Heavy drinking among children is more common when the parents have an alcohol use disorder. It is also less likely for a youth to abuse alcohol if he or she comes from a home where addiction and emotions are openly discussed. Why is alcohol abuse on campus a pervasive issue? It could be any number of reasons depending on the individual, his or her circumstances, and the environment. Stress factors, such as new responsibilities and exams, can be one of the reasons that a college student abuses alcohol. Alcohol can also be a way to cope with social anxiety or to deal with certain peer pressures. Some students may feel stress related to environmental changes, such as living away from family and high school friends. Some are unable to deal with the lack of structure, since they may be called upon to control their schedule for the first time. When students have unstructured time, they can use it productively or make other choices. Parties, which involve drinking, have become one of the ways that students fill unstructured time on college campuses. One study found that students who drink alcohol seek out friends with similar tastes and these influences can feed off of each other.

How Common is College Alcohol Abuse?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that alcohol abuse on college campuses is incredibly common. Of full-time college students, 58 percent had drunk alcohol in the past month compared to 48 percent of people in the same age group who are not in college. Past month heavy alcohol use was reported in 12.5 percent of college students versus 8.5 percent of people not in college but in the same age group. Statistics centering around college-age drinking vary by residential environment and school, all of which can influence alcohol abuse in college.
  • Students living in residence halls drink more overall than students who live at home with family or commute.
  • Two-year colleges have lower rates of alcohol consumption than four-year schools.
  • Students attending school in the northeastern region of the U.S. drink more at college than students in other areas.
Group of people with filled beer mugs toasting in a circle.

Binge drinking and alcohol abuse on campus is a pervasive issue.

College Students and Binge Drinking

Many college students consume alcohol by consuming an excessive amount of alcohol over a short period, otherwise known as binge drinking. For males, binge drinking is considered the consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours. For females, the amount is four or more drinks in two hours. The NIAAA reports that 37.9 percent of college students ages 18-22 admitted binge drinking over the last month versus 32.6 percent of non-college students in the same age group. Binge drinking can be incredibly dangerous and is something that leads to the death of many college students each year. This is just one of the tragic consequences associated with college-age alcohol abuse.

Consequences of Alcohol Abuse in College

Overconsumption of alcohol in college can have significant consequences. More than 1,800 college students lose their lives each year from unintentional injuries related to alcohol. This figure includes alcohol poisoning and motor vehicle crashes. Violence and sexual assault are other tragic problems connected to alcohol abuse. Each year, 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. 97,000 students are victims of sexual assault where alcohol is involved. Roughly 25 percent of college students report that they have suffered academic consequences from their drinking. This might include falling behind on assignments, missing class, performing poorly on exams, and receiving lower overall grades. College students who drink excessively risk legal trouble from charges that range from public drunkenness to DUI to something much more serious. A student might harm someone else or make another poor choice that will have life-altering consequences. A student who drinks regularly or binge drinks may also make some other poor or risky decisions. These choices could lead to severe or permanent injury. Other poor choices might involve intimate partners, leading to an unplanned pregnancy or an STD. Over 150,000 college students each year also suffer from alcohol-related health issues. Alcohol abuse can lead to some serious health problems and conditions such as liver damage, pancreas inflammation, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and lower immune system functioning. When alcohol use turns to abuse, there are many college students with alcoholism who are not sure where to turn for help. In fact, about 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder.
Man sitting next to a woman with his hand on his head appearing overwhelmed.

College students struggling with alcoholism can get help at an alcohol treatment center.

Where Can College Students Get Help With An Alcohol Use Disorder?

Some college environments and Greek organizations make alcohol abuse seem normal, but it can ruin lives and futures. Liquor and popular beer manufacturers cater to a younger demographic through some of their marketing, but that does not make drinking to excess safe. If you are a college student struggling with alcoholism, there is help available. The Recovery Village offers comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment that begins with medical detox. You can then transition to the treatment program that best suits your needs and situation. Contact us now to learn more about admissions and find out how our caring and compassionate services can help.
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Life in the Fast Lane: Exploring the Impact of College-Age Alcohol Abuse
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