April is Alcohol Awareness Month according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and we at Acceptance Recovery Center want to shed light on a serious issue affecting today’s college students: binge drinking. Alcoholism can be difficult to identify in college settings in particular, due to the high prevalence of alcohol on college campuses. However, instances of alcohol abuse such as binge drinking are incredibly dangerous phenomena and may lead to prolonged alcohol abuse for these students later in life.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as consuming more than four drinks during a single event. No specific timeframe in which someone must consume these drinks exists, since alcoholism is more about behavior and compulsive thoughts than the exact amount of alcohol involved.
Individuals living with alcohol addiction feel the subconscious need to drink for a variety of reasons: getting over social anxiety, dealing with trauma, or simply to experience the feeling of intoxication. People who abuse alcohol feel the need to drink alcohol during the day, usually every day, and very heavily when they are in a social situation. These social situations are especially common in college settings.
College Binge Drinking Statistics
When students attend college, most of the social events that they will attend involve alcohol consumption. These events encourage students who are already suffering from alcohol abuse to imbibe more frequently and in greater amounts. In addition, these social gatherings may also increase the likelihood that a student will develop an alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism in college students is not harmless or normal under any circumstances. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), college students engage in binge drinking at extremely high rates. This binge drinking can take place in private or during social events.
- Approximately 50% of college students engage in binge drinking.
- Over 1,800 college students die each year due to binge drinking, either due to an accident while drunk or because of a health condition, such as alcohol poisoning.
- Approximately 600,000 college students experience moderate to severe injuries each year due to accidents and health conditions that occur during binge drinking.
- Approximately 100,000 college students fall victim to sexual assault each year during binge drinking episodes, either due to losing consciousness during intoxication or at the hands of someone who is drunk.
- An estimated 700,000 college students get into violent confrontations while binge drinking per year, which can result in injuries and even death.
Consequences of Binge Drinking in College
Binge drinking in college can impact every facet of a student’s life. This behavior can destroy friendships and relationships, academic performance, physical health, and mental health. For example, excessive drinking increases a person’s risk of injury, such as broken bones, fractures, and concussions. In addition, students can experience worsening mental health due to binge drinking; anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts are common among people who suffer from alcohol abuse.
With binge drinking, students may prioritize alcohol abuse over going to class, studying, or completing assignments. These students can see their grades drop and spend less time in school. In addition, students who binge drink could face academic and behavioral discipline due to their alcohol use, leading to an expulsion or suspension from school. Students may engage in risky and even criminal activities, which can lead to additional discipline, fines, and jail time.
Finally, binge drinking can severely impact a student’s physical health. College students who binge drink are more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol in the future. In addition, college students can develop alcohol-related health problems due to binge drinking, such as liver damage, pancreas inflammation, and high blood pressure.
How to Tell If You Have a Binge Drinking Problem
If you are a college student concerned about your drinking habits, you are not alone. Many college students struggle with binge drinking and alcohol abuse every year. However, there is a clear distinction between casual drinking and excessive binge drinking. If you notice any of the following signs while you are drinking, seek professional help as soon as possible:
- When you drink, you mix alcohol with other drugs and medications regularly.
- You neglect your responsibilities due to alcohol use, such as regularly skipping class or failing to study for your exams.
- Other people express concern to you about your alcohol use and you ignore their concerns.
- When you go out to drink, you tend to drink much more than you originally intended to.
- You frequently black out, or lose memory, after you binge drink.
- You excessively drink on weekends and holidays.
- You engage in risky behavior while you’re drinking, such as drinking and driving or getting into fights.
Binge Drinking and Alcohol Poisoning
Another serious consequence of binge drinking on college campuses is alcohol poisoning. This condition occurs when someone drinks too much alcohol in a short period of time, and can lead to coma and death. If you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself or anyone around you, contact 911 immediately:
- Sudden loss of consciousness
- Low body temperature
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Blue-tinged or pale skin
How Can We Stop Binge Drinking on College Campuses?
When you binge drink in college, you can develop unhealthy drinking behaviors for the rest of your life. You may develop an alcohol addiction that you will need to seek treatment for later on in life. However, there are some steps you can take to limit your binge drinking and the binge drinking of your peers at social gatherings.
Spread the word about Alcohol Awareness Month to your friends and peers and discuss the symptoms of alcohol abuse and binge drinking. Host events where you can speak openly about alcohol abuse, and see if your campus has any resources to assist with this programming.
If you host any parties, make sure to exert control over what type of alcohol your peers drink, as well as who is drinking and how much. You should also provide your guests with lots of water, nonalcoholic beverage choices, and plenty of food. Make sure to take precautions to keep everyone safe.
Seek Help for Binge Drinking Today
If you or a loved one is struggling with binge drinking in college, help is available. The holistic alcohol rehab programs at Acceptance Recovery Center can assist you on your path to sobriety. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how to enroll.
Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County.