College Alcohol Abuse: a Major Problem on Many Campuses

People who are under the influence of alcohol are at risk of acting impulsively and engaging in unsafe sexual practices that can have long-term consequences. The NIAAA estimates that nearly 100,000 students aged 18 to 24 experience an alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape each year. A2019 national surveyfound that around 9% of college students meet the defined criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

college alcoholism

There’s also evidence suggesting that excessive alcohol use in young adulthood may impair brain development, including in cognition and memory, according to the NIAAA. Binge drinking in adolescence can lead to problems with mental, behavioral and brain structure development. For instance, it could cause thinner-than-average prefrontal cortex, underdeveloped cerebral areas, and functional abnormalities in the hippocampus. Binge drinking in college can lead to many immediate and delayed consequences, such as untended pregnancy, violence and cancer.

Many college students don’t keep track of just how much they’re drinking.National datashows that in 2019, one-third of full-time college students aged 18—22 engaged inbinge drinking. Binge drinking isdefinedby having a blood alcohol concentration at 0.08 g/dL or more, which is around five drinks in two hours for men and four for women. While binge drinking alone does not indicate a severe alcohol use disorder, it is a risk factor. Alcohol abuse among college students refers to unhealthy alcohol drinking behaviors by college and university students.

The consequences of binge drinking include alcohol poisoning, nausea and vomiting, unintentional injuries, increased risk of unplanned pregnancies and violent behavior. For students under the legal drinking age of 21 in the United States, alcohol use can result in future unhealthy behavior and impaired brain development as early college age is when the brain is developing. According to studies by McLean Hospital, early alcohol drinking indicates serious problems with alcohol later in life.


College students in their first six weeks of college are at a much higher risk of binge drinking. The college years are some of the most popular times to experiment with alcohol. Roughly 80% of college students – four out of every five – consume alcohol to some degree. It’s estimated that 50% of those students engage in binge drinking, which involves consuming too much alcohol in too little time.

Some interventions are targeted to align with specific events, such as 21st birthday celebrations, as a way to reroute dangerous decisions made on a night that notoriously gets out of control. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines heavy alcohol use, which potentially leads to alcohol use disorder, as binge drinking five or more days in one month. People who binge drink don’t drink every day, but they still face problems when they consume alcohol because they typically drink too much during those occasions. For women, binge drinking involves consuming four or more drinks in roughly two hours.

Alcohol overdose occurs when there’s too much alcohol in the bloodstream. This impacts the brain’s ability to manage basic life-maintaining functions, such as breathing, circulation and temperature control. Medically Reviewed By Kate Dube, LCSWA licensed behavioral health or medical professional on The Recovery Village Editorial Team has analyzed and confirmed every statistic, study and medical claim on this page. In general, the most effective interventions inCollegeAIMrepresent a range of counseling options and policies related to sales and access.

If you do get in a car, wear a seatbelt, and observe the driver for any erratic driving. The moment you feel uncomfortable, ask the driver to stop the car and get out, making alternative arrangements to get home. A DUI may limit graduate school and professional opportunities, especially in a profession requiring licensure, like social work, medicine, nursing, etc. If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek help from a medical professional who can perform an assessment and recommend treatment options. Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., LMHC., LPC, is a licensed mental health counselor and author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic.

How Alcohol Affects the Developing Brain

It’s estimated that more than 1,500 college students aged 18 to 24 die each year from unintentional alcohol-related accidents, including car crashes and other types of incidents. Each year, around 696,000 full-time college students aged 18 to 24 arebelieved to beassaulted by intoxicated students. Stressors could include eco sober house cost academic stress, family and relationship stress etc. Penn State released a study that showed that the more daily stressors students have in their lives, the more likely students are to engage in alcohol. In the same study it was there was also a direct correlation with drinking to cope with stress and AUDs.

Research suggests that the occurrence of drinking and driving among college students depends on local policies and how they are enforced. Therefore, the most effective strategies are multidisciplinary, including prevention and enforcement efforts by the college, local policy department, and health agencies. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

  • A student athlete, for example, learns how alcohol affects hydration and athletic performance — even days after taking the last sip.
  • That’s why it’s crucial to seek help at the first warning sign of a drinking problem.
  • BAC is the measure of alcohol in one’s bloodstream; a BAC of 0.08, therefore, means that 0.08% of the bloodstream consists of alcohol.
  • Students are encouraged to prioritize safe drinking over non-drinking.
  • College parties often put students in the futile situation of trying to sober up in an instance.

This is higher than the usual college average of 80% drinkers and 50% binge drinkers. Currently there are over 12,000 fraternity or sorority chapters in the United States with over 750,000 members which raises concerns for student college life at universities. A study showed that members who were part of a fraternity reported two or more symptoms of alcohol use disorder at a rate of 45 for every 100 participants. This number was greater than other participants with the average around 31 per 100 participants. The same change was also seen in women who were part of a sorority with 26.4% of them having symptoms of AUD while close to 18% of other women felt the same effects.

Factors Affecting Student Drinking

Indiana University has already placed a restriction on hard liquor during fraternity parties, while Stanford University has also banned alcohol in undergraduate social events. The University of Michigan, on the other hand, has employed student volunteers to monitor their fellow students on binge drinking. Finally, North Dakota State University has completely banned alcohol regardless of status and age. Normally, the first six weeks of being a freshman in college are considered to be the most susceptible period for binge drinking. This is entirely due to academic pressures and student expectations that arise at the beginning of the school year. TIPS is the global leader in education and training for the responsible service, sale, and consumption of alcohol.

college alcoholism

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use in college, there are several helpful resources that you can turn to. Reach out to a treatment provider for free today for immediate assistance. 10 Ways To Help An Alcoholic Family MemberEven though things may seem helpless, they aren’t.

Binge drinking

A 2015 report revealed that heavy drinking resulting in alcohol abuse occurred in 12.5% of college students who are 18 to 22 years old during the past month prior to the survey. This was later on compared with 8.5% of college students who occasionally go for a drink. For years, unwarranted alcohol consumption has been causing one of the predominant public health issues in the United States. Excessive drinking has created a massive effect on the health and social behavior in the country, including that of college students. For an average adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks for males, or four or more drinks for females, in about two hours.

Do not wait for the person to have all the symptoms, and be aware that a person who has passed out can die. 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.

Solutions include prioritizing sleep, meditation and breathing exercises, using planning tools and schedulers, finding mutual aid groups, exercising, practicing yoga, eating well, and finding a creative outlet. There is no quick way to sober up, other than having a good night’s sleep and drinking lots of water. However, it’s important to remember that leaving a severely intoxicated friend alone to sleep it off could be dangerous or even deadly, especially if they have alcohol poisoning. Specifically, research by the NIAAA indicates that teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 have a 40% greater chance of becoming alcoholic with or without a family history of alcoholism. A person may not have every symptom, and if they have passed out from too much alcohol, they could be at risk of dying.

Finally, it offers individualized strategies — such as putting ice in drinks or assigning a designated driver — to help students drink in less risky ways. The method, which has been shown to reduce how much students drink as well as to reduce related negative consequences up to four years out, meets NIAAA’s highest standards for evidence-based college drinking interventions . Parties where alcohol is widely available can often be the main way to socialize on college campuses. It is common for college students to have relaxed attitudes towards dangerous amounts of alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, college alcohol abuse can have many serious personal, legal, financial, academic, and medical consequences. According to a recent report, 37.9% of college students between 18 to 22 years old were reported to binge drink during the last few months prior to the national survey.

Alcohol use is involved in over half the sexual assault cases on college campuses. For the most part, it is the men being intoxicated that commit acts of sexual assault. In addition, sexual assaults involving alcohol tend to occur between a man and a woman that are not familiar to each other. The very nature of being intoxicated from alcohol tends to make men feel more powerful and privileged, leading to an increase in risk that the man will sexually assault a woman.

Boston University established the AlcoholEdu for College program, which requires all college freshmen to be aware regarding high-risk drinking situations. One of the disciplinary measures for students who are caught in the loss of scholarship. College students who are prone to binge drinking have difficulty focusing and memorizing their lessons.

Many colleges have school counselors and other services that allow college students to connect to a mental health professional for free or at a low cost. In addition, student health insurance often covers mental health services. Though not necessarily legal, college drinking has become so common that there are less legal consequences for students caught drinking as compared to non-campus drinking events. Students are encouraged to prioritize safe drinking over non-drinking. Many schools have transportation services that are specific to drinking so the students are transported safely.

A large cup of beer, an overpoured glass of wine, or a single mixed drink could contain much more alcohol than a standard drink. In addition, the percentage of pure alcohol varies within and across beverage types (e.g., beer, wine, and distilled spirits). Sometimes though, alcohol-related crimes can be extremely serious and put other people in danger. Harmful criminal activities involve battery, kidnapping and homicide. College students who commit crimes while intoxicated can face legal punishments such as fines, probation, suspended license and jail time. In English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience.

Compared with a control group that received no intervention, the in-person interventions and some of the Web-based ones reduced negative consequences students had on their birthdays. The BASICS interventions that didn’t explicitly talk about the risks of 21st birthdays, but rather the risks of drinking in general, reduced both alcohol use and risky behavior, the study found . The approach is based on behavioral economics, or the idea that behavior is influenced by availability and cost. In college, where beer is typically cheap and abundant, the framework helps to explain why drinking often gets out of control. But by highlighting appealing alternatives to partying, the approach suggests students will be more likely to steer clear of alcohol’s short-lived rewards. “All of that unstructured time, and a lack of awareness of the future benefits of engaging in college or the community, is a lot of what is fueling this binge drinking problem,” he says.