This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
Worldwide, alcohol is the most abused drug. According to WHO, alcohol accounts for 3 million deaths every year, representing about 5% of worldwide deaths.
Coming nearer home, in 2018, NHS recorded over 355,000 admissions in hospitals attributed to alcohol. This number represented about 2.1% of all hospital admissions in the UK.
As a fact, alcohol abuse is rampant among college students. While legal drinking varies in many countries, most college students attain it shortly before or after joining college. Please call 0203 955 7700, and seek assistance on alcohol abuse from an experienced advisor.
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse is drinking too much alcohol more often interfering with your daily activities.
For some people, drinking alcohol is not much of a bother. The reason being, they can drink in moderation without experiencing problems related to alcohol.
Therefore, moderate drinking or controlled drinking of alcohol is not considered to be alcohol abuse. Typically, moderate drinking is two drinks for men and one for women a day.
Drinking alcohol is considered to be alcohol abuse if your normal daily activities are affected. Alcohol abuse is any amount of alcohol that impairs your judgment and coordination, affecting your everyday activities.
What are the common symptoms of alcohol abuse?
- Impaired judgments and poor decision making
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Slurred speeches
- Decreased ability to control bodily movements
- Risky behaviours
What are the factors that lead to alcohol abuse in college students?
Several factors increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse in students. They include:
- Environmental factors
In college, many students consider drinking as an integral part of the college experience. Most students have attained the legal drinking age by joining college and are eager to experiment with drinking.
Moreover, at colleges, there are many sporting events and social events where alcohol is available. Day after day, you are likely to come across several parties taking place. At the parties, alcohol and other substances are available in plenty. Therefore, you are likely to cave to peer pressure and start drinking alcohol if most of your friends indulge in alcohol.
- Individual factors
Some factors from within an individual may influence your alcohol abuse while in college. For example, your family history with alcohol can be a significant influence on your college life drinking. If your family members, such as your parents and uncles, drink alcohol regularly, the chances are high that you are likely to emulate them when you join a college tour.
Also, your motive for drinking alcohol is a critical factor in college drinking. Some people take alcohol at celebrations such as birthdays, and others may drink alcohol to escape from stress resulting from academic pressure in college.
What you perceive to be the norm also plays a part in alcohol abuse among students. For some students, taking alcohol is an acceptable norm; hence they find no problem with it. Notably, some students join college with established drinking habits, which worsen once in college.
College males tend to drink more than females. Generally, men are daring and, at times, can be reckless. More male college students are daring and are likely to engage in binge drinking compared to female students.
Binge drinking among college students
Binge drinking is the excessive consumption of alcohol within a short period. At colleges, binge drinking is a common phenomenon at parties. As free-spirited and wild as they are, college students engage in reckless and excessive drinking of alcohol.
In the first weeks, fresh college students are at the highest risk of binge drinking. As new students, first-year college students are inexperienced, and the urge to explore drinking alcohol is high. In addition, being away from close supervision from parents gives new college students a range of freedom to engage in reckless activities, such as binge drinking, without the fear of being rebuked or monitored.
For men, binge drinking is considered taking five bottles of beer in less than two hours, while for women, it is four drinks.
Due to peer pressure, some students begin to drink alcohol as soon as they join college. Other students will take alcohol to fit in and make friends in college. However, as the students start to take alcohol regularly, chances are high they might binge drinking.
The risk of binge drinking has increased drastically with the growing popularity of hard liquor such as whiskey. These hard liquors have higher alcohol percentages by volume compared to the typical bottle of beer. As a result, fewer liquor drinks can lead to binge drinking, leading to life-threatening effects resulting from alcohol overdose.
What are the adverse effects of alcohol abuse in college?
Generally, in most colleges, drinking alcohol is considered a common and regular social activity. However, excessive drinking among college students has caused adverse effects on students, families, society, and even in colleges.
There are many consequences caused by alcohol abuse directly and indirectly. They include:
- Poor performance in academics
One of the immediate adverse effects of alcohol abuse among college students is poor performance in classes. Alcohol as a depressant is a habit-forming substance. What starts social drinking may lead to dependence and uncontrollable alcohol as time goes on.
As you drink regularly, your body will likely build tolerance for alcohol, meaning you will need to drink more alcohol than before to experience similar effects. After an increasing amount of alcohol, you quickly become dependent on alcohol.
With heavy drinking, students are likely to prioritise drinking alcohol over attending classes. Without effort, students may not study for exams, do assignments, and post poor grades. About 1 in every 4 English college students have admitted to performing poorly in academics due to their drinking habits.
Due to poor results, some students end up spending a lot of money as they retake the failed courses and may end up having their graduation pushed back to allow them to put their grades in order.
- Health problems
Other than immediate symptoms of alcohol abuse, you may experience health problems after heavy drinking for an extended length of time—for example, high blood pressure, pancreas problems, liver damage, and other health complications.
Usually, after a night out of heavy drinking, students may wake up in the morning with a hangover. Also, excessive alcohol can cause health problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In some cases, excessive alcohol use can cause alcohol poisoning, leading to life-threatening effects such as coma and death.
In the UK, almost 150,000 college students are taken ill for alcohol-related health problems every year.
- Assault cases
Alcohol abuse impairs your judgments hence unable to make rational decisions. Students who take excessive alcohol are likely to engage in violent activities. With an inhibited brain from alcohol abuse, students may be unable to solve differences peacefully and logically, hence resorting to violent acts. Also, verbal abuse is common with students under the influence of alcohol.
- Reckless sexual activities and sexual assault
Intoxication affects the proper functioning of your brain. Therefore, students under the influence of alcohol are likely to make poor decisions and engage in reckless sexual activities.
Further, many students have experienced sexual assault and date rape when intoxicated. Mostly among girls, students under the influence of alcohol are vulnerable to sexual assault, especially at parties or when heading back to their apartments at night.
Even in consensual sexual activities, intoxicated students are likely not to take necessary precautions and easily engage in unsafe sex. Practising unsafe sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and the spread of HIV.
- Drunk driving
As dangerous as it is, drunk driving is a significant cause of road accidents in the UK. Alcohol impairs your judgement and coordination, making it difficult to control a car or operate a machine carefully. Chances of fatal accidents are high if students drive while drunk, and the accidents may leave them with deadly injuries and sometimes death.
- Criminal activities
Alcohol increases the likelihood of students involving themselves in criminal activities. Conversely, there are things that students do while drunk that they cannot do when sober. While drunk, students are more likely to be involved in aggravated vandalism, violent protests, and petty theft than when they are not under the influence of alcohol.
To fund their drinking habit, students may steal money and other valuables from their parents or friends.
- Dependence and addiction
Alcohol is a depressant that is habit-forming. As students drink high amounts of alcohol regularly, their bodies tend to grow tolerance resulting in increased alcohol intake for similar effects.
After some time of regular drinking, your brain and your body may become dependent on alcohol. As dependent on alcohol, students will intensely crave alcohol, thus prioritising drinking over anything else. Alcohol dependence is a disease that should be treated in rehab.
- Body injuries
Generally, once you take too many drinks, your coordination and bodily movements are affected. As you walk staggering, you may hurt yourself as you fall to the ground due to instability. Students under alcohol abuse tend to have facial and body injuries frequently.
As a long-term effect, excessive alcohol consumption among college students can cause chronic health problems such as liver problems that can lead to death. Still, if college students overdose on alcohol, they may suffer from severe effects of alcohol poisoning such as coma and death.
In the year 2020, UK authorities reported over 7,400 deaths as a result of alcohol abuse. The risk of death is high among students after binge drinking.
How to know if you have an alcohol abuse problem?
Several symptoms can help you know you have alcohol abuse problems. They include:
- You cannot control your drinking once you start
- You try to stop drinking alcohol without success
- You are unable to carry on with your daily activities as soon as you drink
- People around you start pointing out to you that you have an alcoholic problem
- You do not like being questioned about your drinking
- You drink secretly
- You experience feeling of guilt after drinking
- Your relationships with other people around you are affected
- You experience blackouts after drinking
- You turn violent after drinking
- You have bodily injuries as a result of drinking
How to address the alcohol abuse problem in college students?
For alcohol abuse among college students to be addressed effectively, society should take a concerted effort approach. Efforts should be directed towards individual students and the college environment.
Individual factors are critical in influencing alcohol abuse among college students. Most at risk are first years during their first few weeks of joining college. Interventions such as alcohol screening and other alcohol programs should change the student’s attitude and knowledge. As a result, the students are encouraged to change their behaviour, such as drinking less and avoiding binge drinking.
The government and colleges should develop strategies to change the college and community environment where alcohol abuse happens should be put in place. Significantly, these strategies should reduce access and availability of alcohol to cut students’ alcohol consumption.
How is alcohol abuse treated?
The first step is to stop excessive drinking of alcohol immediately. As much as drinking is generally accepted in colleges, students who must drink should practise safe and controlled drinking. However, the best option should be for students to abstain from alcohol. Drinking excessively regularly worsens with time as you become dependent on alcohol.
For those who already have alcohol abuse problems, you should take detoxification treatment. Detoxification can be done in health facilities or at rehabs.
If you are in this position or have a student suffering from this unhealthy relationship with alcohol, please call 0203 955 7700. An experienced advisor is available to speak to and provide help.
At our treatment facilities, students with alcohol abuse are treated and guided by our professionals in the treatment. With absolute confidentiality, students are treated and taken through healing at our facilities that are sensitive to their needs.
Are you out there and have a college student who is struggling with alcohol abuse? Please call 0203 955 7700. An experienced advisor is available to speak to and provide help.
- Alcohol drinking among college students: college responsibility for personal troubles – BMC Public Health
Alcohol abuse is rampant among college students, especially in their first years in their early weeks. In addition, factors such as environment, individual, and demographic may increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse among college students. Therefore, various strategies should be employed to address and prevent alcohol abuse in colleges.