ALCOHOL USE IN COLLEGE
For many students, going away to college is the point in life when they begin the experience of making their own decisions about their life on a day-to-day basis. There are many fewer constraints on choices, and, without parents nearby to enforce their rules, adverse consequences often appear to be remote or nonexistent. It is not surprising that college is a time of personal experimentation in many areas of behavior. While in college, you may choose to experiment with alcohol (and/or with other substances).
Patterns of Alcohol Use
Nationally, about 80% of college students use alcohol. About 1/3rd of college students consume alcohol in a pattern called binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking in a manner that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to higher than .08. For a typical male, this is drinking 5 or more drinks in a two-hour period and for a typical female- 4 or more drinks in a two-hour period. Heavy drinking is defined as binge-drinking 5 or more times per month. As of 2019, 9% of full-time college students met the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder. Fortunately, about two thirds of this group significantly reduce their drinking after leaving college.
Consequences Associated with College Alcohol Use
Alcohol can be a part of the college experience for many students, although there are unfortunately a host of negative consequences associated with drinking irresponsibly. Some of these consequences may include:
- Your academic performance can suffer as a result of drinking
- You can be hospitalized for alcohol poisoning or other alcohol-related injuries
- You may engage in risk-taking behaviors (driving under the influence, unsafe sex, etc.)
- Death (roughly 1,500 college students die from alcohol-related injuries)
- The use of alcohol is considered a risk factor in sexual assault
While it may be common sense, the easiest way to avoid any alcohol-related consequence would be to abstain from drinking. The reality is that many college students will experiment with alcohol and that aside from abstinence, there are ways for you to consume alcohol more responsibly and mitigate risk. These strategies often include:
- Eating a full meal prior to drinking
- Staying hydrated- alternating alcoholic beverages with water/non-alcoholic beverages
- Limiting the number of drinks
- Staying away from hard alcohol/mixed drinks
- Pouring your own drinks and/or never leaving your drink unattended
- Being mindful of (both prescribed and OTC) medication interactions with alcohol
- Utilizing Uber, Lyft or other ride-sharing services
- Drinking around other trusted/responsible individuals
- Leave drinking events with everyone you came with
If you are in recovery or are otherwise choosing to abstain from drinking, many college campuses are now hosting sober events as well as on-campus recovery meetings (AA/NA). Some campuses also have sober dormitories as well as established collegiate recovery programs to help you succeed in an environment that is not always conducive to recovery.
HOW TO GET HELP
Free, confidential help is available by calling the Counseling Center at 610-519-4050.