Alcoholism on College Campuses

How Much College Drinking is Too Much?

College is an exciting time in young people’s lives. Most of them are living away from home and/or have less restriction than they have had in their earlier years. The old adage “More freedom comes with more responsibility” is applicable to college life; however, it is not in the front of most college students’ minds.

A Dangerous Aspect of the College Experience

Binge drinking has become a staple of the college experience. One of the most greatly anticipated aspects of college life is alcohol being readily available. Statistics show that 80% of college students drink alcohol. A startling 50% engage in binge drinking, which is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in two hours for males and 4 or more drinks in two hours for females.

Consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time carries many risks. These include:
• Alcohol poisoning.
• Choking on one’s own vomit (the most common alcohol-related death).
• Being more prone to sexual assault.
• More likely to become a victim or an assailant of violence.
• Getting into a motor vehicle accident.
• Unintended sexual activity.

The repercussions of these risks include:
• Coma.
• Death.
• Hospitalization.
• Rape or sexual assault.
• Legal problems.
• Suspension or expulsion from the college or university.
• Unplanned pregnancy.
• Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

No college student is immune to the risks and repercussions of excessive drinking. The legal drinking age and dorm rules are not effective in preventing college students from excessively drinking. Educating college students on responsible drinking and the risks that are associated with irresponsible drinking is what will reduce the number of college students who engage in excessive drinking and the number of alcohol-related incidences on college campuses. Unfortunately, many schools, parents, and communities are not privy to that fact.

The Disease of Alcoholism

Almost all Americans have heard the term “alcoholism” at some point. Most Americans know someone who suffers from the disease of alcoholism. Prolonged excessive drinking may lead to increased alcohol tolerance, psychological and/or physiological alcohol dependence, and therefore progress to alcoholism. College students have a bright future ahead of them, but many of them do not consider how their short-term decisions will impact their long-term future. College drinking should not maim the rest of people’s lives, but it unfortunately does for many people.

Alcoholism is defined as by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.” Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It may progress from the person always drinking to drunkenness to the person needing to drink to avoid excruciating, deadly withdrawal.

The symptoms of alcoholism are:

• Problems arising at school and/or work due to drinking (e.g. being late, excessive absence, etc.).
• Alcohol-related legal problems arising (e.g. driving under the influence, getting into fights, etc.).
• Alcohol starts to negatively impact relationships.
• Always using alcohol to cope with life’s problems and stress.
• Excessively drinking regardless of experiencing alcohol-related consequences and health problems.
• Friends and families are concerned about the person’s drinking.
• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

The risk factors for someone developing alcoholism are:

• Genetic predisposition.
• Other mental disorders (e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.)
• Coming from a dysfunctional family.

Many people confuse the difference between an alcoholic and a person who merely drinks excessively. Alcoholics are people whose excessive drinking negatively impacts their life. Contrary to traditional belief, the majority of alcoholics are not people who just sit at home or on the streets and drink during their every waking hour. The majority of alcoholics are successful people who provide for their families. Alcoholism does not discriminate. It can afflict all people, regardless of their nationality, religion, profession, socioeconomic status, education level, family background, etc.

The Appropriate Amount of Alcohol

Almost every American will consume alcohol at some point in their life. Drinking alcohol is acceptable if it is done within reasonable limits.

The Mayo Clinic states the guidelines for moderate alcohol use are:
• One drink a day for women.
• Two drinks a day men under the age of 65.
• One drink a day for men over the age of 65.

The “one drink” is defined as:
• A twelve-ounce beer.
• A five-ounce glass of wine.
• A 1.5oz of hard liquor (80 proof).