Alcohol Abuse among College Kids
Compared to other students, college students have the highest rates of binge drinking.
Alcohol Abuse and College Students, How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect College Students?, How Much Does the Average College Student Drink per Week?, How Many College Students are Alcoholics?, Why do Students Abuse Alcohol?, What Alcohol Do College Students Drink?, What are the Effects of Alcohol on Students?, Rehab is Your Best Chance
Underage college drinking is a serious public health problem, and it is important to understand everything about this phenomenon. If someone you care about is in college and engaging in alcohol abuse, you need to know why they are doing so and what the potential effects are. Excessive drinking can take a huge toll on the lives of these students. Helping them begins with understanding their situation.
Drinking at college is seen as a rite of passage or ritual—something that is seen as a fundamental part of their experience. While there are some who go into college with an already-established drinking habit, some students start drinking when they start their higher education. And once they do start drinking, they drink excessively. Here we will be taking a deep dive into the relationship between alcohol and college students.
Alcohol Abuse and College Students
There are many factors that contribute to the increased alcohol intake among students in college: the unstructured class schedule, the new social circles, the limited interactions with parents, and the availability of alcohol are some of the most obvious reasons. Underage drinking laws are also enforced inconsistently, which only makes the problem worse.
Compared to other students, college students have the highest rates of binge drinking. They also have a higher involvement when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol.
There is also the fact that students expect to binge drink as soon as they enter college, because this is the type of culture they are expecting. These expectations can make them more vulnerable to alcohol abuse, not realizing—or ignoring the fact—that they don’t necessarily have to drink in college. For this reason, heavy drinking is very common even among those who are in their first year of college.
Student environment also matters. Those who are in schools with established Greek systems as well as prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students who are attending different types of schools.
Students who commute and live with their families have lower rates of alcohol consumption while those who are living in fraternities and sororities have the highest.
How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect College Students?
Alcohol abuse affects not only the students themselves but their families and the communities around them. Since college students are prone to drinking and driving, they are at risk of getting into vehicular accidents which may also hurt other people who are sharing the road.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA, around 1,519 college students die from alcohol-related injuries each year. This includes motor vehicle crashes and other accidents.
Underage drinking is also linked with assault. NIAAA statistics also show that around 696,000 students ages 18 to 24 are physically assaulted by another student who was under the influence of alcohol.
It is also worth noting that the majority of sexual assaults in college involve alcohol and other substances.
Alcohol use among college students also leads to academic problems related to poor performance in school. Students who drink excessively are prone to missing classes, getting behind in schoolwork, and missing deadlines. Those who develop a substance use disorder may find it difficult to focus in class because they have become tolerant and dependent on alcohol. They need to keep drinking in order to feel “normal”.
A national survey showed that college students who participated in binge drinking at least three times a week were around six times more likely to perform poorly on tests as a direct result of their drinking. They are also more likely to miss their classes. 40% of students who engaged in binge drinking missed their classes while only 7 percent of students who drank but never binged missed their classes.
Speaking of alcohol use disorder, around 9 percent of college students ages 18 to 22 fit the criteria for an AUD according to a 2019 national survey.
These are some of the biggest effects of alcohol abuse among college kids, but there are other problems to worry about such as health problems, injuries, unsafe sexual behavior, suicide attempts, and problems with the law.
How Much Does the Average College Student Drink per Week?
The most concerning thing about alcohol use among college students is the fact that a large percentage of them engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking is when a person consumes an excessive amount of alcohol within a short period of time.
Binge drinking for men is drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in the span of two hours. For women, binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks within a two-hour time period.
For most college students, the first six weeks of their freshman year is considered the highest-risk period of binge drinking. This is when most of them fall into peer pressure and start drinking within the first few days of getting into college. This stems from their desire to fit into their new environment and make new friends. They will keep drinking without stopping to consider the potential consequences of their actions.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of college drinking is the fact that students are not drinking just to socialize—they are drinking in order to get drunk. The goal is to drink as much as possible or even to the point of blacking out. This is extremely dangerous because of potential life-threatening effects, including alcohol poisoning and vehicular accidents.
Binge drinking, according to the NIAAA, is a pattern of alcohol consumption in which the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is brought to 0.08% or higher. Drinking in this way can cause a lot of problems for the person’s health, and a lot of college students are drinking irresponsibly to try to fit in with their peers. In the process, they are putting themselves at risk of liver damage, organ failure, and alcohol addiction.
How Many College Students are Alcoholics?
According to a study from 2012, out of 21.6 million students who enrolled in fall classes, 80% of them had an alcoholic drink at some point. Of the students who drank, around 50% of them displayed binge drinking tendencies, which goes to about 8.5 million students.
Male students tend to drink around 9 drinks a week while female students tend to consume around 4 drinks per week. Those who go beyond these numbers are at a greater risk of becoming an alcoholic. For men, consuming 14 drinks a week puts them at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, while it’s 7 drinks per week for women.
One study showed that almost 53 percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month, and around 33 percent of those participated in binge drinking during that time period.
Why do Students Abuse Alcohol?
Entering college brings plenty of new experiences in an entirely new environment with plenty of new people. It also comes with new challenges and responsibilities. Going into college can be both exciting and overwhelming. All of these things may contribute to a student’s desire to try new things—even potentially harmful things such as binge drinking.
When students go to college, they are often separated from the friends they knew in high school. This can make them feel uncomfortable and anxious as they try to find a new social circle to fit into. They may drink to try to relieve their anxiety or to feel a sense of belonging with their new classmates and friends. Alcohol is a relaxant and can help them calm their nerves. But it also affects their decision-making, which can lead to some bad decisions and accidents.
Peer pressure is definitely one of the biggest factors that can lead a student to drink. They may want to fit in with the party crowds who seem to be having more fun. Alcohol is known to lower inhibitions, which makes them more sociable and fun to hang out with. That said, there are some students who want to avoid these crowds for the specific reason of avoiding alcohol.
Some students drink out of boredom. They expect college to be full of new adventures and experiences, so they experiment with alcohol. They use it not only as a way to socialize but as a form of entertainment. Drinking can provide a temporary feeling of euphoria, which makes it appealing to most people. College students in particular are likely to disregard the potential risks of alcohol and binge drinking because they want to have fun and feel excited.
Another thing that ties into the social aspect of college drinking is fear of missing out, commonly referred to as FOMO. Since the college environment offers a unique culture, some students don’t want to miss out on that experience. They want their own wild stories about their time in college, so they have something to laugh about with other people in the future. That’s why they engage in binge drinking and other reckless activities. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that their drinking habits in college can develop into a more serious problem along the way. Fraternities and sororities in particular often have events that specifically involve alcohol.
There are also students who drink not to socialize but to relieve stress. They want to maintain good grades, manage expectations, balance work and school, finish all their workloads, complete their requirements, and deal with social anxieties. College is a stressful time and students sometimes drink in order to cope. But although alcohol can reduce stress for a short while, its after-effects actually contribute to the stress they experience.
What Alcohol Do College Students Drink?
OneClass, a tech-based education service, surveyed 580 students at 49 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada to learn about their preferences when it comes to alcoholic drinks, including their favorite brands. It turns out the common assumption that college students have beer as their top preference is actually false.
According to OneClass, college students prefer spirits to hard seltzer, beer, or wine. They prefer mainstream spirit brands including Smirnoff, Tito’s, Svedka, New Amsterdam, Bacardi, Malibu, Jack Daniel’s, Absolute, Grey Goose, and Hennessy. The survey revealed that most college students prefer vodka.
Hard seltzer is the second most popular drink among college students, with popular brands such as White Claw, Mike’s Hard, Natural Light, and Truly.
Only 13 percent of the respondents chose beer as their preference. Popular brands include Corona, Bud Light, Coors, Busch, Natural Light, Budweiser, and Keystone.
Meanwhile, only 10 percent selected wine as their favored drink. The top wine brands are not the pricey kind, with Barefoot and Black Star Farms topping the list. College students prefer mainstream brands no matter what type of alcohol they are consuming.
What are the Effects of Alcohol on Students?
One of the most serious potential consequences of binge drinking is overdose. Each year, thousands of college students are taken to the emergency room because of alcohol overdose. This happens when there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream. The areas of the brain that control basic life-supporting functions like heart rate, temperature regulation, and breathing begin to shut down.
It is important to watch out for the signs and symptoms of this dangerous condition. Symptoms of alcohol overdose include stupor, mental confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, irregular breathing, slow heart rate, clammy skin, dulled responses, and extremely low body temperature. The person may have a bluish skin color or be unable to remain conscious.
Someone who is exhibiting these symptoms may require immediate medical attention. Do not wait for their symptoms to get worse. Be aware that a person who has passed out can die, so call 911 if you think it may be an alcohol overdose.
College drinking commonly includes binge drinking alcohol with friends. And while this is considered problematic behavior, it is also sadly normalized to the point where students expect this to be a regular part of college life and culture. Someone who develops unhealthy drinking habits may encounter some serious problems with their health, their studies, their social life, and their mental health. It is important to address this problem through a combination of individual and environmental interventions that keep students away from harmful drinking behavior.
Rehab is Your Best Chance
Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.