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How Common is Alcoholism in College Students

by | Last updated Mar 31, 2021 at 1:24PM | Published on Aug 6, 2020 | Alcohol Addiction, Drug Addiction

Alcoholism in College Students

College and alcohol go hand in hand—House parties, tailgates, bars, and the newfound freedom that comes with being on your own. However, students across the United States are a bit too familiar with alcoholism in college. Many people start their substance use disorders while in college, harming their developmental time later in life. The more we talk about the dangers of alcohol abuse and the long-term consequences, the better chances we have from keeping college students from falling into alcoholism.

Alcoholism in College Students Infographic

What’s Alcohol Abuse?

Of course, someone can casually enjoy a drink or two with friends and even family members. However, alcohol abuse or alcoholism happens when drinking patterns become regular. Someone with an alcohol use disorder has difficulty performing daily responsibilities like school and work without consuming alcohol.

Alcohol abuse varies for men and women because their bodies tolerate alcoholic beverages differently. To understand alcohol abuse, you have to learn the standard definition of an alcoholic beverage: a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounces of distilled spirits such as rum, whiskey, or tequila.

For men, alcohol abuse equals drinking 14 drinks per week or over four drinks per occasion. For women, it means seven drinks per week or three or more drinks per occasion. Of course, the keyword here is regular use. If someone engages in binge drinking once in a blue moon, it doesn’t mean they’re struggling with alcoholism.

An alcoholic can be a highly functional individual, but they can also display some tell-tale signs of alcohol abuse, such as:

  • Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
  • Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress or feel normal
  • Choosing to drink over other responsibilities and obligations
  • Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members
  • Drinking alone or in secrecy
  • Feeling hungover when not drinking
  • Changing appearance and group of acquaintances

Alcoholism in College Statistics

While some people start drinking while in high school, there’s no doubt young adults drinking numbers exacerbates during college. According to information from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 60% of college students participate in activities that result in drinking alcohol. From the same study, approximately 2 in 3 admitted to binge drinking.

About 1 in 4 students who end up with an alcohol abuse problem note it affects their academic life. But, more than this, alcoholism in college affects everyone around the addict.

Close to 700,000 college students reported being physically assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol. About 100,000 of these students said they were sexually assaulted by someone intoxicated or while they were drunk. Studies believe close to 1,8000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die every year from alcohol-related injuries, including binge drinking and automobile accidents.

What Influences College Alcohol Abuse

Blame the media, peer pressure, or the fact that alcohol is commonly accepted everywhere, alcoholism in college is a given. Of course, so many factors influence college alcohol abuse. According to one study, close to 40% of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Of course, peer pressure and expectations about college life aren’t the only factors to consider. Other indicators of someone being at risk of alcoholism include:

  • Family history of alcohol abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • History of drug abuse

Beyond these factors, things like hazing rituals and pressure to fit in can drive someone to adapt to their peer’s drinking habits. Many of these fraternity and sorority rituals include binge-drinking rituals, which can even cause fatal alcohol poisoning. Because alcohol rewires the brain, someone who regularly engages in these behaviors can develop a tolerance and an addiction.

Consequences of College Drinking

The consequences of alcohol abuse are evident. Anyone, college student or not, falls into the traps of alcohol abuse, and everything can start to fall apart. Those struggling with alcohol abuse are more likely to have suicidal attempts, health problems, unsafe sex, and engage in reckless behavior. Almost 2% of college drinkers have attempted suicide.

Beyond increasing their chances of developing an alcohol addiction, other consequences include:

  • Academic decline
  • Irritability
  • Blacking out
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Criminal activity
  • Car accidents
  • Body injury
  • Violent acts

Alcoholism affects much more than their academic performance, alcohol consumption can have some long-term health effects, including:

  • Risk of stroke
  • Brain damage including long-term memory loss
  • Higher risk of cancers including mouth, esophagus, liver, and breast cancer
  • Infertility
  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver problems
  • Death
  • Higher risk of contracting STDs

Finding Drinking Help

Alcoholism in college is a serious problem, but there’s hope for those struggling with a substance abuse disorder. Alcohol addiction treatment can help someone fight their addictive behavior and find long-term sobriety.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction specialists can help you or someone you know navigate the different alcohol addiction treatments available. From alcohol detox programs to comprehensive individual therapy, we look at every angle of your addiction to create a unique plan to help you find recovery.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you believe you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse. Our compassionate counselors are ready to discuss your treatment options in a safe and confidential environment.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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