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Alcohol-and-the-College-Years-Part-one - dark club with teens drinking

Alcohol and the College Years (Part 1)

Alcohol-and-the-College-Years-Part-one - dark club with teens drinkingWith college classes convening, it’s the prime time to take a look at the struggles facing first-year college students and returning upperclassmen alike.

It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a small private college or a large university. It doesn’t matter what your upbringing was like, your social class, or the type of high school you graduated from. Everyone is susceptible to the pull of peer pressure. Whether you’re a student embarking on the college scene or a parent wanting to understand the dynamics of college life for this generation, there is a large amount of information to take in.

Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking Are Common on College Campuses

First-year college students, especially those living on-campus, are often overwhelmed by all the freedom to make choices they now have. The statistics are staggering. The rates of drinking by college attendees are markedly higher than their peers not attending college. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2015 said 58 percent of full-time college students (aged 18-22) drank alcohol in the month prior to the survey. Nearly 40 percent engaged in binge drinking, and 12.5 percent engaged in heavy alcohol use.

Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks (for males) and 4 or more drinks (for females) at one time or within 2 hours. One standard drink is considered 14 grams of pure alcohol, a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or shot/mixed drink containing 1.5 ounces of alcohol.

Heavy alcohol use is generally categorized by binge drinking 5 or more days in a given month. This abuse of alcohol can have dangerous and even dire consequences for not only the person drinking and their body, but for others they come in contact with.

Health Risks of Youthful Overindulgence

The human brain continues to develop into a person’s 20s. Alcohol can impede that development as well as cause other alcohol-related injuries. Studies have shown that an alcohol-related health problem is developed by over 150,000 college students on a yearly basis. These can result from an alcohol-related car accident or even things as simple as bruises, muscle sprains, cuts, concussions, and fractures stemming from loss of balance, decreased motor skills, and drowsiness. Some researchers estimate that each year nearly 1,900 college students die from alcohol-induced injuries and automobile accidents.

Continued overindulgence can lead to severe alcohol-related health problems. This includes:

  • Liver damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Lowered immune system
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Loss and death of brain cells
  • Heart complications (heart attack, stroke, heart disease, etc.)
  • Sexual impotence

Overindulgence long-term can develop into alcoholism, which can have devastating consequences for the mind, body, and spirit.

Non-Health-Related Consequences

Not all risks associated with college drinking are physical. Of college students aged 18-24:

  • 1 in 4 report academic consequences such as missed classes or lower grades
  • 20 percent meet the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder
  • 97,000 report experiencing alcohol-related date rape or sexual assault
  • 696,000 are physically assaulted by a fellow student who is under the influence

Alcohol can also exacerbate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The way each person mentally reacts to alcohol is unique. While one person may feel happy and excited while drinking, another may become suicidal or attempt self-harm from the overwhelming depression and sadness it brings out. Some people become angry and pushy, and will start fights or demand things from others. Any and all of these behaviors can have serious consequences and can land a student on the wrong side of the law.

Getting Students the Support They Need

Learning how to prevent alcohol abuse in college students can start in childhood and teen years. However, in the midst of such a new situation, even the most careful teens can be swept up by the mob mentality and peer pressure surrounding them. In this case, noticing a problem before it causes permanent damage to self or others is paramount.

Many colleges and universities will have counseling available. Others have specific activities that bring students together for social times without the addition of alcohol. A strong family support is beneficial as well, especially for students who may be overly-attached and easily become homesick, and also those extremely far from home.

The college years should be filled with some of the best memories of a lifetime. Knowing the limits one needs to set will enable those memories to be fully remembered and fully enjoyable!

If you or someone you love is in need of alcohol or drug treatment, contact our Houston inpatient alcohol treatment anytime, at (877) 977-3268. We are here to help.

Back to School. The Foundation For Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
Changing the Culture. College Drinking Prevention.
Special Populations, College Drinking. NIH, NIAAA.
Binge Drinking in Texas. TABC.
LessThanUThink Campaign. Texas A&M Today.