The Reality of Alcohol Use in College Students
Of the many stigmatized issues that young people face, a significant one is the use and abuse of substances; which includes alcohol and other recreational drugs. As a full-time college student myself, I see how these issues plague
my peers. I also see how these problems are not properly addressed in a university setting. As I watch my friends consistently struggle with the abuse of substances, I find myself becoming more and more frustrated. Many of my fellow students, a significant number of whom are not even twenty-one yet, have become dependent on alcohol. Nevertheless, we pretend as though these issues are non-existent. Why is this? What are the realities of substance abuse and addiction in college students? Unlike the widespread reputation of being a college student, it is not the purely enjoyable and pleasurable experience which it is made out to be.
Alcohol is widely available at universities, as well as at college parties. I am not terribly concerned with responsible drinking. Where I see an issue arising is when my peers abuse alcohol. According to Rachel N. Lipari, Ph.D., and Beda Jean-Francois, Ph.D., writing for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2016, full-time college students tend to, on average, drink more than part-time students. While this can be chalked up to the ever-present party scene at college campuses, there is a reason why these statistics are worrying. According to the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, around 80% of college students will engage in some form of drinking. However, approximately 50% of those students will binge drink.
Binge drinking is one of the places where these statistics become worrying. Binge drinking is defined as drinking a good deal without taking the proper time to allow one’s system to adjust to the alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The exact definition of the NIAAA is, “Binge drinking involves consuming an excessive amount of alcohol over two hours, which raises one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 or more.” Drinking so quickly and so heavily becomes deeply dangerous. Not only does binge drinking put a young person at risk for developing alcoholism later in life, or even during college, but it also wreaks havoc on the body.
As written by Carol Galbicsek for the Alcohol Rehab Guide, around 150,000 students will feel the effects of alcohol and binge-drinking; this can include damage to one’s liver and the development of high blood pressure. Also stated by Carol Galbicsek, “Roughly 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder (AUD).” Drinking so heavily can also lead to injuries, changes in behavior, and a drop in academic performance. Indeed, these are only a few of the issues which can be caused by binge drinking. Yet, we do not appear to have any interest in acknowledging these problems. This dilemma is complicated by a lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to what it means to drink in excess.
It may surprise some of my peers to know that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “Defines heavy alcohol use, which potentially leads to alcohol use disorder, as binge drinking five or more
days in one month.” Even I was shocked when I discovered this information. I know many of my peers who engage in this level of drinking and do so casually. These issues are the reality for a good number of my fellow college students. So then, why are college students so prone to drinking? These reasons extend beyond partying.
In attempting to discover why students are drinking, and why some of these students drink so heavily, one finds a wide variety of reasons. Every student who engages in consuming alcohol has their own reason for doing so. However, there are a few reasonably well-agreed upon reasons. According to the research of Joseph W. Labrie, PH.D., Justin F. Hummer, B.A., and Eric R. Pedersen, M.A., “social camaraderie” is the most prominent reason for binge drinking; this, in a nutshell, means drinking for the sake of a student’s social status, or to “fit in.” Going away to university can be an utterly disorientating experience. A student might lose all of their friends, move away from the family that they have lived with all of their life, and may find themselves in a new city with which they have little to no experience.
However, if one dives into the reality of drinking, they will find that drinking for the sake of one’s social place in the college is not the only reason for drinking when it comes to college students, though drinking may occur because of peer pressure. According to Colgate University, these issues are widely varied, exhibiting that drinking and binge-drinking extends beyond something to participate in purely for pleasure’s sake. Drinking in students can also occur because of the positive effect it tends to have on one’s mood. Beyond this, drinking can be a reducer of stress.
In my experience, the concept of drinking in order to cope with stress proves to be a common and genuinely distressing one. Perhaps it is because this concept hits so disturbingly close to home, as I have known a number of my peers to use alcohol to lessen the stress that comes with being a full-time student, only to become dependent on it. I see my friends and my fellow students struggle with what is transforming into addiction, and no one seems to want to discuss it. I see people my age wasting away at what should be an enjoyable time of their life.
At the end of the day, I simply wish for people to discuss the issue. I hardly think that’s too drastic a request.
Alchohol Addiction Resources: