Alcohol Abuse in College

According to the CDC, more than 88,000 people die annually from alcohol related deaths in the United States. Many of these deaths are from college students or those that may have started drinking heavily in college. Alcohol abuse on college campuses is extremely prevalent and can be very detrimental to the overall health to the individual drinking, but equally, the people around them, as they can both be affected in a variety of different ways, including physically, but also mentally. While all alcohol abuse is worrisome, a very common problem amongst college students is called binge drinking, which is an aggressive form of drinking which causes an almost immediate spike in blood alcohol content and can lead to serious health consequences and disorders, which include blackouts, alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, alcohol poisoning, and in some cases death.

Brains do not develop fully until roughly age 25. Most college kids are ages 18-24 and their brains aren’t done developing, and this is the exact reason why drinking can be so terrible for an individual. However, at college parties with their peers, alcohol consumption is viewed as normal, even in the excess. It is not uncommon for someone to be throwing up or passed out on the couch, all while having very few people checkup or take care of them. This may not seem dangerous in the moment to the drinkers but there have been many occasions in the past where people have died in this exact situation due to alcohol poisoning. (CollegDrinking.)

In fact, it is estimated that nearly 2,000 college students die every year as a direct result of alcohol related unintentional injuries, some of them being from alcohol poisoning. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these deaths resulting from drinking occur from driving as well (CollegeDrinking.) This is another very important issue that occurs a lot when it comes to drinking in college – drunk driving in college students is a very real issue for a multitude of reasons. One of the main reasons that this is so bad is because a person under the age of 21 is not allowed to drive under any influence of alcohol, even if they are under the legal limit. Hence, any type of drinking and then getting into a car in the driver’s seat is completely illegal. More importantly, though, is that drunk driving is one of the most dangerous actions that a drunk person could make, but many college students feel completely fine after a few drinks and may not think they were drunk at the time of getting at the steering wheel. However, the vast majority of the time, they are too intoxicated to make the right decisions, and depending on the intoxication level and the decisions made, these drunk driving car accidents can easily lead to death of the driver and/or the person on the other end of the accident. A lot of these drunk driving cases can be closely linked to binge drinking, in that the student drank too much alcohol in a short period of time and is clearly too drunk to be operating a motor vehicle. As will be discussed, binge drinking is an issue in itself for a vast majority of reasons, one of which being a reason already mentioned, in that it can easily lead to alcohol poisoning. However, binge drinking can lead to another multitude of issues such as driving drunk which has the possibility to lead to the injury or death of another person on the road.

Binge drinking is defined as have 4-5 drinks for the average man or woman in under a 2-3-hour time period. (AlcoholPrevention.) This causes a large spike in blood alcohol content, which is the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. This can be very dangerous in excess as large spikes in said blood alcohol content can cause blackouts, which are pockets of time in which the drinker cannot remember what happened. This is especially scary as you could do something completely out of character and everyone could see it, and one would have any idea. Furthermore, binge drinking sets up for a lifetime of alcoholism in many cases. Those who drink socially versus those who binge drink differ a lot in their drinking habits and how they started drinking. While this is certainly not to say that all college students who binge drink are going to turn into alcoholics later in their lives. With this being said, though, it has been estimated that some 80% of college students drink alcohol of some sort, while 50% of those college students binge drink (AlcoholRehab.) This is a very startling number, seeing that nearly half of all kids in college drink excessive amounts of alcohol that could lead to any array of the issues mentioned above, along with many others.

With this being said, it is important to determine what binge drinking means in terms of alcoholism. Many researchers today say that those who binge drink often or regularly technically are alcoholics themselves. Many college students do not want to admit that they have an alcohol problem, but for those that are constantly binge drinking every weekend, it is safe to say that they truly are alcoholics, which is becoming a very common issue in America. The exact number of people who binge drink more than once a day in college is estimated to be at 12%, in that “…about 12% of college students ages 18 to 22 binge drinking on five or more occasions per month” (AlcoreRehab.) What this means is that there are 12% of college students who binge drink more than once a week, which is extremely unhealthy. As will be discussed more in the following, there is a correlation of students who binge drink in college versus those who turn into true alcoholics after college. While simply partaking in binge drinking during college does not mean that these students are going to all be setting themselves up for a lifetime of alcoholism, there is evidence suggesting that those who binge drink during college are more likely to have alcoholism problems after they graduate. Luckily, not everyone who binge drinks in college continues to do so when they are of age. In fact, the majority of underage drinkers who binge drink are likely to stop after they turn 21 for the simple fact that once they are of age, the activity is less fun. While this is an issue in itself, in that many students simply drink because they know it is illegal which makes the activity fun, this luckily means that when a lot of the students turn 21 they are likely to slow down on their alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, though, those students who binge drink during their college years are much more likely to develop some sort of alcohol dependency later in life, which is very concerning to a lot of medical experts today.

One of the main reasons that binge drinking in college can turn into a lifetime of alcohol abuse is for a very similar reason that children start drinking in the first place – because it is new and exciting. However, when children graduate college and get ready to move on with their lives, often times, they want to start drinking in public as well. Those students in college who made binge drinking a regular activity may very well want to start drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in public as well.

With that being said, there are many other issues of binge drinking alcohol in a college setting, one of them being performing worse in schools. “Excessive alcohol consumption can take a toll on a student’s academics. Drinking may even become a priority over attending classes, completing homework and studying for exams. An estimated one in every four college students admit to having poor grades or other academic problems because of their drinking behavior” (AlcoholRehab.) The worst part about this is that the reality of the matter is that students are paying a lot of money to be in school in the first place, and drinking alcohol in excessive amounts to the point in which it takes a toll on one’s schooling can become a very real issue that leads to a lack of good grades. Not only, in this case, will binge drinking set one up for the possibility of becoming an alcoholic after graduating college, but it will also set them up for a lack of success after college because of the minimal effort in which they put forth whilst attending school.

As if this is not enough, there are other possibilities that can stem from drinking too much alcohol. Evidence suggests that more crimes are committed under some sort of intoxication than not – especially by college students. This is simply because alcohol changes the way that the brain works, and people who may normally not commit a criminal activity while sober may be much more likely to commit one when they are under the intoxication of alcohol. “When someone is under the influence of alcohol, their actions may be entirely different from how they would normally behave…Highly intoxicated college students usually partake in vandalism, property damage, driving under the influence and other criminal activities” (AlcoholRehab.) On top of this, it is not at all uncommon to see fights stemming off of someone being drunk, which can cause a lot of injuries and lead to criminal charges as well. The more that someone drinks, the more their blood alcohol content level increases, and research shows that as one’s blood alcohol content increases, their risk for injury is even higher. “Each year, close to 600,000 college students unintentionally injure themselves due to heavy drinking. Injuries can involve bruising, fractures, muscle sprains and other similar issues” (AlcoholRehab.) Essentially, the point here is that the more someone drinks, the more likely they are to injure themselves. It can safely be said that anyone who is drinking this much alcohol in college is likely suffering some form of alcoholism in one way or another, or at least setting themselves up on the path to become one.

One other issue that can easily stem from alcoholism is that of depression. This is also another subject that could be thought of as self-injury, but with the possibility to be much worse. A lot of college students drink under stress, in that they drink to make themselves feel better. However, this is an issue all in itself for the simple fact of the matter that this is a very common sign of alcoholism. When people are drinking to take some sort of pain away, they are abusing alcohol because of the effects that it has on the brain. “For those who struggle with depression or anxiety, alcohol consumption can cause life-threatening effects. Students who face extreme mental instabilities are most at risk of attempting to commit suicide or other acts of self-harm. Alcohol can significantly alter a person’s mind, which can make them act irrationally” (AlcoholRehab.) Those students who are depressed and stressed because of school, which is becoming an increasing number of student’s in today’s world, may drink as am way to cure or help this pain, but the reality is that by doing so, they are evidently becoming alcoholics. For those who are able to control themselves to not commit self-harm while under the influence, they may very well and more likely develop a dependence on alcohol to help take their pain away which can lead to them being constantly drunk in order to make sure they are not hurting. These are generally the types of people who have a dependency on alcohol later in life because of the issues that alcohol helped them through during their college years. It is safe to say that those who drink while they are depressed in college are setting themselves up for a lifetime of alcohol problems.

Overall, there is no questioning that college students drink alcohol underage. However, there is a growing concern that those students who do regularly binge drink will develop alcohol dependencies later on in life which have the potential to cause a lot of issues in itself. It is no secret that those who blow all of their money on alcohol have a lot of health, mental, and financial issues later in life which can be very hard to get out of. Hence, there is a push to work on reducing college drinking right now. While it cannot be stopped altogether, there is a lot of evidence suggesting that those students who drink excess amounts of alcohol in college will develop some form of alcoholism as they get older if they do not find out a way to control their drinking after they graduate. Furthermore, some students in college may already be suffering from alcoholism. Whatever the case may be, alcoholism is a very serious mental disease that has the potential to harm people later on in life if it is not taken care of quickly. Henceforth, there needs to be a push to work on reducing the number of students who drink in college in order to work on the number of people who graduate from college and become alcoholics themselves.

References

  • “Alcohol Abuse in College Students: Warning Signs, and Prevention Tips.” AlcoRehab.org, AlcoRehab.org, alcorehab.org/alcoholism/college-alcohol-abuse/.
  • “Binge Drinking in College – The Impact of Alcohol in Higher Education.” AddictionCenter, www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/binge-drinking/.
  • “College Alcoholism – Alcohol Abuse in College – AlcoholRehabGuide.” Alcohol Rehab Guide, www.alcoholrehabguide.org/resources/college-alcohol-abuse/.
  • “College Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/college-drinking.
  • “College Drinking – Changing the Culture.” College Drinking Facts for Parents, www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/.
  • “College Students and Alcohol Abuse: New Resources Can Help | NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/fall09/articles/fall09pg24-25.html.
  • “Consequences.” College Drinking Facts for Parents, www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/statistics/consequences.aspx.