We live in a great time for casual drinking: just a couple drinks with friends shouldn’t be a big deal, right? And a couple of drinks from the keg at a party…fine. But when college students start blacking out on a regular basis, that’s when the real trouble begins. And based on the high percentage of admitted binge drinking among college students, the problem is bigger than anyone could guess.
The more we learn about addiction and substance abuse and the causes that lead youth into addiction, the more important tackling early substance abuse becomes. It’s easy to get sucked into binge drinking. After all, we do live in a culture of consumption. And college students won’t shy away from drinking anytime soon—especially with the prevalence of Greek systems that promote fraternity or sorority parties, popular sporting events, and the general culture of college drinking.
College drinking might start out casually, but can lead to far more pressing problems, especially with the prevalence of binge drinking: while 60 percent of college students aged 18-22 have drunk alcohol in the last month, 2-3 have also engaged in binge drinking during that time. Binge drinking constitutes five or more drinks for men within about two hours, and four or more for women. For the average college drinker, those numbers might sound low. That’s probably because the average rate of alcohol consumption is actually much higher, and drinks are almost always much bigger in size than the standard recommended serving.
What About Schoolwork?
Binge drinking does not only have a physical and mental effect, but can prevent a student’s success—and potentially lead to lessened career or academic opportunities.
25 percent of college students admit to falling behind academically due to drinking: lower or failing grades for assignments or exams, lower overall grades, and higher rates of absence. So maybe you’ve drank a little bit too much and your college career is on the fritz. Okay, well, that’s not so bad, right? It’s probably just a phase…you’ll grow out of it.
But the habits you set in place during college years can significantly affect the rest of your life, especially your physical and mental health. Heavy drinking can also lead to legal problems. College students who consume alcohol excessively are statistically more likely to be arrested for an alcohol-related violation related to campus property damage or vandalism.
Binge drinking also directly affects school performance. Binge drinkers who binge-drink 3 times a week are 6 times more likely than non-binge drinkers to perform poorly on a test or project—40 percent more likely than a non-binge dinker. Though college might be a time for learning about the world in new ways and understanding new concepts, the vulnerable college student can get sucked into the party culture, and directly hinder an important college career.
But binge-drinking is still viewed quite casually by the average college student—and standards of alcohol are very much hidden behind the typical over-poured drink, especially when the incoming college student learns about drinking from a culture established in heavy consumption.
Why Is College Drinking Dangerous?
But the more problematic issues are behind the serious physical consequences of drinking excessively at a young age. Drinking can even provoke mental illness, exacerbate symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, contribute to greater levels of depression, and increase symptoms of anxiety.
- Alcohol exacerbates mental health and physical problems, and 150,000 students will develop health problems related to alcohol.
- 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related incidents, including motor vehicle crashes.
- 3,360,00 college students admit to driving under the influence while drinking.
- Between 1.2 and 1.5% students indicate that they tried to commit suicide due to an alcohol related situation.
- 50 percent of administrators at universities with high drinking levels state that they have a moderate-to-high level of vandalism.
Early College Drinking and Sexual Assault
Heavy drinking on college campuses seems to lead to higher instances of assault, both sexual and physical. For those between the ages of 18 and 24, 97,000 students become a victim to sexual assault or date rape incidents related to excessive alcohol consumption. 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims to physical assault as the result of alcohol consumption.
Sobriety on the Rise
Sober bars and more inclusively sober events have begun popping up around more and more college campuses. It seems that the trend of sobriety is on the rise, with more and more celebrities attesting to living sober lifestyles.
While more and more students are learning about the benefits of drinking less and more celebrities are becoming sober in the public eye, more parents are choosing to inform their children about the dangers of over-consumption.
Still, the statistics related to dangerous drinking habits in college indicate that the casual drinking habits of college students will lead to dire future consequences. However, with a broader perspective comes a wider array of positive solutions.
BIO: Leslie Sullivan blogs about substance abuse and addiction, mental health and wellness, as well as language and translation. A former ESL teacher, she keeps her grammar demons at bay, and is always looking for ways to bring together creativity and logic.