The Problem of College Drinking Is Widespread and Dangerous, According to Recent Reports

Posted By Terri Williams on December 16, 2015 at 9:18 am
The Problem of College Drinking Is Widespread and Dangerous, According to Recent Reports

Alcohol consumption is common on college campuses. Admittedly, some students may have already been introduced to alcoholic drinks while in high school, but at that level, drinking is usually a covert activity. However, at many – if not most – institutions of higher learning an environment prevails that normalizes and encourages college students to drink. And while students may view alcohol as a harmless part of collegiate life, the consequences are anything but harmless.

According to a recent report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, college drinking can produce several negative consequences in a student’s life, ranging from poor academic performance and drunk driving to physical assault.

October 2015 surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveal the following troubling statistics:

  • Close to 60% of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 consumed alcohol in the past month
  • An even higher percentage admitted to binge drinking in the past month

If you’ve ever binge-watched TV shows, you probably have a pretty good idea of what binge drinking entails. It occurs when, within the span of two hours, females consume 4 or more alcoholic drinks and males consume 5 or more alcoholic drinks. This is sufficient to raise the blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08 g/DL.

In most bars, restaurants, and other types of establishments that sell alcohol, a “drink” can be 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. However, alcohol is not necessarily standardized across college campuses so students may consume beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages in containers like 16-ounce plastic cups, and this can result in stronger – or more diluted – concentrations.

Dangers of drinking

According to a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, alcohol-related injuries, such as motor vehicle accidents, account for 1,825 deaths each year among college students between the ages of 18 and 24.

Another study published in the Annual Review of Public Health revealed that each year, 696,000 college students are physically assault by inebriated students. The same study also revealed that 97,000 students were sexually assaulted in alcohol-related attacks.

Twenty percent of students who consume alcohol could be classified as having an alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

According to results of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, and a separate study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs:

  • 25% of students say drinking has resulted in missed classes and poor academic performance.
  • Students who engaged in binge-drinking at least 3 times a week were 6 times more likely to report poor performance on tests and projects than those who were drinkers – but not binge drinkers. They were also 5 times more likely to say they skipped class.

Pressure to drink?

Melissa Cohen is a licensed social worker and coach who works with teens and parents, and is also the author of “ParentKnowledgy – A (Simple) Guide to Surviving Your Teen.” She tells GoodCall that campus life can be a big adjustment and many students are experiencing independence for the first time while also trying to negotiate various social networks. “This can be extremely difficult and awkward, and many believe that drinking will help them fit in and will make others like them more,” explains Cohen.

Her theory is supported by evidence from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which shows that binge rates are higher among college students than among those who didn’t attend college, and college students are the most vulnerable during their first six months as they struggle to fit in.

However, Cohen warns that these students usually don’t realize the truth until it’s too late. “Science notes that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25,” says Cohen. And although these young college students may outwardly appear to be adults, Cohen says they don’t necessarily think like adults.

“It is important that the conversation begins early – parents need to speak with their kids about drinking and binge drinking,” Cohen warns.  And if students determine that they need help, or discover that a friend does, Cohen says that all schools should have someone who can provide help.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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