Alcoholism in College

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College life is commonly associated with excessive drinking, and research shows that full-time college students tend to consume more alcohol than others in their age group. According to SAMHSA in 2019, of full-time college students reporting past-month alcohol use, 33% reported binge drinking, and 8% reported heavy drinking. Comparatively, 28% of persons aged 18-22 who were not enrolled in college full-time reported binge drinking, and 6% reported heavy drinking. (1)

Factors contributing to the high rates of heavy drinking among college students include social pressure, academic-related stress, and the wide availability of alcohol. Unfortunately, college alcohol misuse can have many severe, personal legal, financial, educational, and medical consequences that persist or worsen later in life. Heavy drinking also significantly increases the risk of developing alcohol use disorder, which can cause severe short- and long-term physical and psychological damage.

For these reasons and others, seeking professional help is crucial if you are struggling to quit misusing alcohol on your own. At Guardian Recovery, we provide individualized, evidence-based treatment programs for people motivated to quit drinking and reclaim the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve.

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Alcohol Use in College

College alcohol misuse affects millions of students yearly. Many college students are already prepped to become drinkers due to high school drug or alcohol experimentation or being raised in an environment that normalizes regular drinking. As a result, these students may be at a higher risk of developing a drinking problem in general. However, college itself introduces new temptations and risk factors, such as campus culture and social experiences centered around alcohol.

Factors That Contribute to Student Drinking Include: (2)

  • Personal or family history of alcoholism. (3)
  • Negative emotional states, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Social anxiety, or drinking to boost self-confidence in social situations.
  • A tendency toward impulsiveness and sensation-seeking.
  • Peer/social pressure.
  • Membership in a sorority or fraternity.
  • Presence of Greek organizations.
  • Prominent athletic programs.
  • Participation in athletics.
  • Availability of alcohol on campus.

Alcohol-Related Statistics Among College Students

  • Approximately 696,000 full-time college students aged 18-24 are assaulted by intoxicated students each year. (4)
  • An estimated 1 in 5 college women experience sexual assault during college, and a majority of college sexual assaults involve alcohol or drugs. (5)
  • One in four college students reports facing adverse academic outcomes due to alcohol use, including missing classes and falling behind on schoolwork. (6)
  • 2019 national survey found that approximately 9% of college students meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. (7)

Thousands of college students visit emergency departments each year due to alcohol poisoning. (8)

Binge Drinking Among College Students

Binge drinking is prevalent among college students who use alcohol. Of the estimated 80% of college students who drink, more than half of these students report engaging in binge drinking. (9) The high levels of impairment caused by binge drinking place students at “a substantially elevated risk for negative consequences, such as traffic accidents, injury-related deaths, sexual assault, violent crimes, and reduced academic performance.” (10)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours for men and four or more for women. (11) The CDC also states that binge drinking increases the risk of car accidents, falls, burns, drowning, and other accidental injuries. (12)

Potential Consequences of College Binge Drinking Also Include:

  • Mental health issues and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Severe injuries from falls, bike accidents, or car accidents.
  • Risky sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • DUI arrest, DUI with injury or death charges, jail time, and legal issues.
  • Poor academic performance and college disciplinary actions.
  • Increased risk of physical or sexual assault.
  • Increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder now or later in life.
  • Alcohol poisoning and overdose.

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Developing Alcoholism in College

The first six weeks of the first year in college is a vulnerable time for students to begin binge drinking and experiencing alcohol-related effects. During this time, many students are affected by peer pressure and academic expectations and begin drinking soon after classes begin. Although many students start college already having experience with alcohol and drug use, many do not.

However, even those new to using substances are not invulnerable to the temptations of college social life and drinking. Less structured schedules, easy access to alcohol, and limited interactions with parents contribute to a culture that considers drinking an unavoidable aspect of the college experience. This is evidenced by higher rates of heavy drinking among students versus others their age not enrolled full-time in school.

Signs of Alcoholism in College Students Include: (13)

  • Losing control over alcohol use, drinking more and for longer than intended.
  • Drinking alone or in secret, and avoiding activities that exclude alcohol use.
  • Drinking after waking up and throughout the day.
  • Having frequent hangovers.
  • Developing a tolerance, needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect.
  • Experiencing physical alcohol-related health conditions.
  • Continuing to drink despite adverse effects such as mental, social, and academic problems.
  • Losing interest in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Having the desire to stop or reduce drinking but failing to do so.
  • Using alcohol in inappropriate or high-risk situations.
  • Dedicating significant time and resources to drinking.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as headache, shakiness, depression, irritability, cravings, etc.
  • Having blackouts, i.e., partial or complete memory loss during drinking.

If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one and suspect that problem drinking is involved, consider seeking a clinical assessment and possible treatment. Speaking with an addiction specialist can help you determine if you have an alcohol use disorder and what treatment approaches might for appropriate for your circumstances.

Alcohol Poisoning & Overdose

Thousands of college students required emergency care for alcohol poisoning or overdose. This is a severe and life-threatening condition often caused by binge drinking. When a person consumes alcohol excessively during a brief period, this can result in very high levels of alcohol in the body. Blood alcohol concentrations of 0.30% or greater can shut down critical brain functions that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature and result in death. (14)

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning Include: (15)

  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Inability to stay awake.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Slowed, labored, or stopped breathing.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Low body temperature.
  • Clammy, pale, or bluish skin.

Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency and can lead to coma, brain damage, and death. If you suspect a person is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately or visit the nearest emergency room.

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Professional Help Is Available for College Students Struggling with Alcohol Misuse

If you or a loved one are a college student motivated to overcome alcoholism, a wide variety of effective, evidence-based treatment options are available to help you get started on the road to recovery. Guardian Recovery offers a full continuum of care to address all aspects of your physical, emotional, and spiritual health and wellness. We’ll provide you with the tools you need to develop healthy coping mechanisms, so you can better manage stress without using alcohol or addictive substances.

Contact us today for a free assessment and no-obligation health insurance benefits check. You can speak to an experienced Treatment Advisor who can explain our streamlined admissions process, intensive programs, individualized treatment plans, and multiple levels of care.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/SAMHSA_Digital_Download/PEP21-03-10-006.pdf (2)https://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/media/Journal/082-Presley.pdf (3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056610/ (4)(8)https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/college-drinking (5)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28375675/ (6)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11990979/ (7)https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29394/NSDUHDetailedTabs2019/NSDUHDetTabsSect6pe2019.htm#tab6-23b (9)https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/college-drinking (10)https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/SAMHSA_Digital_Download/PEP21-03-10-006.pdf (11)https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm (12)https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/alcohol.htm (13)https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/3909-alcoholism (14)https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/22689-blood-alcohol-content-bac (15)https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20alcohol%20overdose%20include,and%20extremely%20low%20body%20temperature

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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