Posted on November 8, 2013 in alcohol and drug addiction

The Dangers of Heavy Drinking in College

The problem of college kids drinking alcohol and drinking more alcohol than is safe is one that has been around for decades at least. However, the problem of college kids binging on alcohol is more recent and is a predictor for a number of negative outcomes.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one sitting for a woman and five or more drinks in one sitting for a man. Women being smaller and with slower metabolisms have a slightly lower threshold of danger. Research has shown that, on average, two out of five college kids drink, two out of five drink heavily (binge), and one out of five doesn’t drink at all.

The problem of college drinking is not a joke as it is so often portrayed by Hollywood. Nor should it be considered a normal rite of passage. Drinking, particularly binge drinking, is a serious and dangerous threat to the health and well-being of young adults.

A panel composed of college administrators, researchers and college coeds examined the context of college drinking and the outcomes of college drinking. That panel concluded that while drinking does not occur at the same level on every college campus, those who do binge on alcohol face the same harmful consequences. Nearly half of college binge drinkers will sustain a significant injury or death.

The study found that binge drinking tends to peak in late adolescence and then tends to slow down somewhere in a person’s middle twenties. College students (19 to 24 years old) tend to drink less frequently than younger drinkers, but when they drink, they consume a greater quantity.

The study found that binge drinking tends to peak in late adolescence and then tends to slow down somewhere in a person’s middle twenties. College students (19 to 24 years old) tend to drink less frequently than younger drinkers, but when they drink, they consume a greater quantity.

There are too many variables to give a definitive explanation for why college kids choose to drink or drink to excess. However the panel came up with a list of common factors which affect why or why not a college student chooses to drink.

  1. Personality
  2. Personal values
  3. Peer and family influences
  4. Family history – genetic influences
  5. Expectations related to alcohol for good or ill
  6. How rampant drinking is on campus
  7. Local access and marketing of alcohol to students
  8. The presence or non-presence of school prohibitions on drinking and law enforcement

Other factors which contribute to college drinking have to do with the transitional aspect of college life. Kids in college are suddenly exposed to life with less restriction and, at the same time, considerably more socialization. The lack of responsibility for a marriage or family also makes it easier to choose drinking.

The panel found that coeds who engaged in binge drinking faced a fairly predictable set of consequences.

  1. Missed classes and missed assignments
  2. A higher rate of college dropout
  3. More problems with peers and friendships
  4. Higher instances of risky sex (binge drinkers were two to three times more apt to have had multiple partners in a short amount of time)

These consequences are bad enough, but they also represent some long-term effects to heavy drinking. Without a college diploma job opportunities will be limited. Kids who engage in risky sex are vulnerable to lifelong effects such as an unplanned pregnancy or rape. These situations and their emotional consequences will remain far beyond the college years. Increased drinking is linked to increased aggression and increased risk for problems with the law. A criminal record due to alcohol-induced aggressiveness will stay with the student for the rest of their lives.

Finally, college kids who binge are more likely to be injured physically. It turns out that alcohol is implicated in one in three young adult visits to the emergency room with a serious injury.  Nearly half of all deadly car crashes in this age group are associated with drinking.

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