College is the time for many to widen their horizons, explore their future careers, and make new friends. Unfortunately, most students view this as a time to drink and let loose. This often leads to a variety of problems, most notably binge drinking. Even in the light of the coronavirus pandemic where classes are a mix of virtual and real-life instruction, alcoholism continues to be prevalent – especially in college students.
Table of Contents
- How Many College Students Die Every Year from Binge Drinking?
- What are the Other Consequences of College Binge Drinking?
- Binge Drinking: A Barrier to Effective Learning
- What Affects College Binge Drinking?
- What Can Be Done
How Many College Students Die Every Year from Binge Drinking?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 1,519 students aged 18 to 24 die from binge drinking every year.
This number is alarming, but not surprising, given the rampant use of alcohol by college students. As per the same survey, 54.9% of students aged 18 to 22 drank alcohol within the past month.
36.9% of the population have also engaged in binge drinking, which is far higher than its non-college compatriots.
NIAAA defines binge drinking as the consumption of 5 or more drinks for men – and 4 or more for women – in 2 hours. A standard drink usually measures 0.6 ounces or that which contains 14 grams of pure alcohol.
The most common standard drinks include:
- 12 ounces of beer, 5% alcohol content
- 5 ounces of wine, 12% alcohol content
- 1.5 ounces of either vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, or tequila, 40% alcohol content
Binge drinking readily brings up one’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams of alcohol (or higher) per deciliter.
About 9.6% of college students end up using alcohol heavily, which is defined as binge drinking for 5 or more days every month.
What are the Other Consequences of College Binge Drinking?
Apart from leading to untimely deaths, binge drinking leads to acts of violence as well. According to the same survey, over 696,000 assaults have been committed by students who have been binge drinking. This has also resulted in 97,000 cases of date rape and sexual assault.
The violent consequences do not stop here though. College students who consume alcohol also get involved in drunk driving more so than non-college individuals. They are also often embroiled in suicide attempts, vandalism, property damage, and scuffles with the police.
Binge Drinking: A Barrier to Effective Learning
Students enroll in universities for one thing: to learn. Binge drinking, unfortunately, can be an obstacle to this.
According to NIAAA, 1 in 4 students who binge drink suffers from academic difficulties. These learners are 5 times more likely to miss class.
At the same time, those who binge drink at least 3 times a week were 6 times more likely to perform poorly on a test. This, without a doubt, is detrimental to one’s education.
What Affects College Binge Drinking?
While some students enter university with some alcohol experience, college life can help initiate (if not amplify) binge drinking because of these factors:
1. Unstructured Time
Compared to high school, college classes vary in time and duration. Some may only go to school for several hours, while some have the option to start classes after lunchtime. These variations help prod students to drink as the “subject is only 2 hours long” or they “don’t have to wake up early for class.”
2. Easy Access to Alcohol
College towns have bars littered outside the campus. The area is also surrounded by convenience stores where students can easily get alcohol. Even if the drinker doesn’t have the necessary ID, they might have ‘older’ friends who can easily buy alcohol.
3. ‘Lax’ Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws
While some outlets card students, not all of them do. Some people view college students are mature individuals that can handle themselves.
4. Limited Interactions with Parents and Other Adults
Since the parents of college students are many miles away, they can get away with almost anything. As there are no adults to monitor them, they can drink as often as they want, whenever they want.
5. College Environment
Drinking is more pronounced in universities that have prominent athletic programs or Greek systems. Students who live in fraternity or sorority houses are also more likely to binge drink, compared to those who live with their families or relatives.
What Can Be Done
College drinking is a phenomenon that cannot be avoided. It could, however, be minimized with the help of the following strategies:
1. Parental Guidance
Parents play a vital role in preventing or minimizing college binge drinking. That’s because students who have been briefed by their parents about alcohol and their adverse effects are less likely to drink. As such, it would help if parents enacted the following:
- Converse with the child regarding the consequences of underage drinking, such as unintentional injuries, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex, violence, and academic failure, among many others.
- Communicate with the student regularly and be on alert for signs of alcoholism.
- Remind the child to reach out as often as they wish.
- Make sure that the student knows the signs of alcohol overdose, which include:
- Mental confusion
- Inability to wake up or remain conscious
- Slow (less than 8 breaths per minute) or irregular breathing (breaths take more than 10 seconds in between)
- Slow heart rate
- Cold, clammy skin
- Lack of gag reflex (leads to choking)
- Low body temperature
- Paleness or bluish color
- Learn more about the college’s prevention and emergency efforts for alcohol drinking.
2. Individual Strategies
As some students are more prone to binge drinking, strategies are often geared towards such populations. These include first-year students, student-athletes, Greek organization members, and mandated students.
These interventions include awareness/education programs, motivation & feedback-related approaches, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and behavioral interventions.
In the case of first-year students, these interventions are best applied during the first 6 weeks of college. This is considered a crucial time for binge drinking because of expectations and social pressures.
3. Campus and Community Strategies
Environment-level interventions aim to push the campus and community in helping modify the drinking location. More often than not, the primary goal is to limit alcohol availability to prevent binge drinking and its consequences.
Binge drinking kills about 1,519 college students every year. It may also lead to violence, sexual abuse, and many other consequences. Although this is the case, these numbers may be reduced with the help of parental guidance, individual strategies, and campus/community strategies.
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