College is often seen as a time for experimentation and social drinking. However, alcohol abuse is a serious issue on college campuses across the country. Recent studies show that alcohol abuse in colleges continues to be widespread.
The Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse in College
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about two out of every three college students report drinking alcohol in the past month. Out of these, about one-third report binge drinking, which is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men over a two-hour period. The NIAAA also estimates that around 1,400 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries and around 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. More specifically, around 49.3% of full-time college students ages 18–22 reported drinking alcohol in the past month, with 27.4% engaging in binge drinking during the same period according to a 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Why Do College Students Drink So Much?
There are many reasons why college students abuse alcohol. For many, it is a way to socialize and connect with their peers. Alcohol can provide a temporary sense of relaxation, euphoria, and reduced inhibitions, which can be appealing for young adults who are dealing with the stresses of college life. Some factors that contribute to college students’ drinking behaviors include:
- Peer pressure and social norms that promote excessive drinking
- Stress, anxiety, and depression related to academic pressure and transitioning to college life
- Lack of awareness or education about the risks and consequences of alcohol abuse
The Negative Consequences of Drinking Alcohol by College Students
Alcohol abuse can have significant negative consequences on students, including:
- Increased risk of accidental injuries, including car accidents, falls, and alcohol poisoning
- Difficulty concentrating, learning, and retaining information, which can impede academic performance
- Damage to personal relationships due to risky behaviors or consequences of drinking, such as engaging in unprotected sex or getting into physical altercations
- Long-term physical and mental health problems, including liver disease, addiction, memory loss, and depression
Special Considerations for Supporting Students and Young People Quit or Reduce Drinking
Supporting students and young people in quitting or reducing their alcohol intake is critical for promoting healthy behaviors and wellbeing. Some strategies for supporting students who are struggling with alcohol abuse include:
- Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment that promotes healthy behavior
- Encouraging healthy alternatives to drinking, such as exercise, meditation, and other relaxation techniques
- Providing access to counseling and other mental health services for students who may be dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression
- Educating students about the risks and consequences of alcohol abuse and promoting responsible drinking habit
- Alcohol abuse is a significant concern among college-age students and can have severe negative consequences on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Supporting students and young people in reducing or quitting drinking requires a multifaceted approach that involves education, counseling, and promoting healthy alternatives to drinking.