Look for These Unusual Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Your College Aged Child

Unusual Signs of Alcohol Abuse in College Kids

Drinking in college is a common occurrence nowadays. It seems that no matter which college you look at, you will find a wide population of students that engage in drinking from a few drinks here and there to chronic bingeing. Many students think that they are just having fun and fail to recognize signs that may be pointing toward alcoholism. While there are some common signs, there are also some unusual signs of alcohol abuse to look out for as well.

Drinking May Lead To Self-Harm

If a college student is using alcohol to cope with tough or stressful circumstances, self-harm may be an indicator that they are using. Drinking to excess can often make individuals feel upset with themselves, guilty, isolated and many other negative feelings. If a college aged individual develops negative self-esteem or self-worth from drinking or after drinking, he or she may turn to self-harm to help alleviate the pain. Drinking may be more prevalent in those with a mental health disorder, as those with a mental health disorder are more like to engage in poorer behavioral methods to cope.

Accidents and Injuries…..Just Happen

Students who are engaging in alcohol or are abusing alcohol can suffer accidents and injuries. Because there is decreased reaction time and issues with balance and coordination, individuals are prone to falls which could break bones or bruise up the body. They could also react more slowly in situations where their life or safety is dependent upon quick rational decisions. Being tired drowsy could cause accidents if a person is walking, driving home, or driving others home after drinking.  Less inhibition can also cause some people to make poor decisions that can result in harm to the body. Bruises and broken bones are only a few types of injuries someone can sustain. Muscle injury, concussions, and other injuries are common for those who drink excessively. If a college student has many, severe or recurring injuries, check to see if they acquire them during drinking. If so, they may have an alcohol use disorder. (A college student may not tell the truth, however!)

Developing Health Problems…At Such a Young Age?

Many college kids don’t eat, sleep, exercise, or take care of themselves correctly to begin with, so realizing a health issue is from drinking might be hard. Memory related issues and blackouts can be caused by chronic drinking and bingeing. Kids might attribute memory issues to too much studying or simply feeling overworked and fatigued. High blood pressure and stomach ulcers may be attributed to stress and poor diet, instead of too much alcohol.  Problems relating to sexual organs, particularly in males, may only be attributed to nervousness, a problem with the physical part, or other factors non-alcohol related.  Lastly issues with the heart, liver, and immune system may not even be recognized especially because many college kids are unaware of the extent that social and binge drinking can have over time.

Read: How to stop drinking alcohol

Facing an Assault…or a Few Assaults

Being a victim of assaults or assault where alcohol is a factor can be evidence of too much alcohol consumption. A victim or survivor might fail to recognize danger in their surroundings, make poor decisions, and have trouble escaping due to issues with motor functioning and fatigue. If these events happen repeatedly to the same person and their drinking is a factor they may need to be evaluated for an alcohol addiction. (it is important to note that assault is never the fault of the survivor whether they were drinking or not!)

Outlandish and Grand Thinking….That Isn’t Common of College Kids

As alcohol impairs rationality and inhibition it is not hard to see why outlandish or bizarre thoughts and grand thinking is not an indicator of use. Chronic use could give way to an overall attitude of grandeur, invincibility or lead to over-inflated self-confidence. While students are encouraged to think big and set high goals there is a difference between “thinking big” and odd thoughts and thoughts of grandeur thinking. These types of thoughts might include things that are irrational, extensive, ostentatious and abnormal.

Superficial Connections or No Connections At All

If a student makes no connections or only superficial ones (drinking buddies) this can be a red flag. Only having a “drinking crew” and only engaging in activities where one drinks is a sure sign that alcoholism’s is probably on its way, because that’s the only activity that one is participating in. No connections is a sign as well, because we know that there are no supports, or others to help, to validate, or simply hang out with the other person. This loneliness and isolation can lead to drinking. The drinking can transition from social to an addiction.

Busy Party Schedule….Because That’s The Real Focus of College

If the student has a busy schedule, and it’s full of parties, then that can be something to watch. Many parties serve alcohol, and they may be expected to or peer pressured to drink. If parties are attended fairly often then binge drinking can quickly get out of control.

Needing More Money….With No Evidence of Buying Anything

If a child calls home needing more money, but you are unsure of where they could be spending it, or it is actually going, then it might be worth looking into. They could be spending it on alcohol (or something as equally unfavorable). Here it may be easy to ask your child what they need, and send them a care package with those items, if possible.


There are many more traditional indicators of drinking than just these more unusual signs of alcohol abuse. However, any unusual negative behavior should be addressed and examined right away to make sure that the college aged individual stays on the right track. Becoming an alcoholic during college can really send a person far off course and it can be hard to bounce back without missing time, opportunities, and important college moments.