Alcohol Abuse among College Students

Alcohol Abuse among College Students


Binge or excessive drinking is the most serious problem affecting social life, health, and education on college campuses today. Binge or excessive drinking by college students has become a social phenomenon in which college students do not acknowledge the health risks that are involved with their excessive drinking habits. Furthermore, college students do not know enough about alcohol in general and what exactly it does to the body, or they do not pay attention to the information given to them.

College students across the United States end up missing class, having unprotected sex, damaging property, and getting injured as a result of abusing alcohol. Besides alcohol poisoning, there are many cancers and diseases associated with alcohol abuse that ultimately lead to death. Liver cancer, breast cancer, and skin cancer can all be associated with alcohol abuse (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001). Also, heart and liver disease can be associated with alcohol abuse (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001). Ultimately the overall wellness among Colleges and Universities in the United States drops dramatically when alcohol is abused.


Students who go to college believe that binge or excessive drinking is a social norm; that when you go off to college it’s time to not only get a degree but also a time to drink and socialize at parties. Ultimately alcohol becomes so much of a social norm that students do not realize how and when alcohol is abusive. Therefore the problem is how to inform students in a socially acceptable manner of how and when alcohol becomes abusive to their own well-being.

There are many definitions associated with alcohol and alcohol abuse in general that need to be clarified. Most college students think of alcohol as that cheap high they get to obtain on the weekends at social events. Knowing what alcohol really is and what exactly it can do to your body in excessive amounts over time and in any one sitting is one of the main problems with why college students abuse alcohol. The actual definition of alcohol is a “liquid distilled product of fermented fruits, grains, and vegetables used as a solvent, antiseptic and sedative” (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001).

The possible effects of alcohol include intoxication, sensory alteration, and anxiety reduction. Symptoms of overdose include staggering, loss of coordination, slurred speech, dilated pupils, and nerve and liver damage. Indications of possible misuse include confusion, disorientation, convulsions, shock, drowsiness, respiratory depression, and possible death (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001). Most college students will say they know what alcohol can do to them, but they continue to drink excessively because it’s the social norm. Furthermore, college students are confused as to what is considered alcohol abuse and simply alcoholism.

The confusion between the definitions of alcohol abuse and alcoholism leads to many misconceptions or myths among college students about alcoholics. College students who abuse alcohol seem to be able to drink excessively each and every weekend and consider themselves not to be alcoholics or not in endanger of becoming alcoholics. College students who are binge or excessive drinkers are able to avoid being labeled an alcoholic because it’s so socially acceptable in college to drink and drink often.

The distinction is that “when drinking begins to interfere with any aspect of a person’s life it’s considered alcohol abuse. And when drinking becomes addictive, either psychologically or physically, it’s considered alcoholism. Alcohol abuse, if left untreated, can very easily progress into alcoholism” (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001). In response to this fact, most college students come up with the myth that people who are morally weak or have emotional problems are the only ones who can become alcoholics.

Whereas the truth is that “studies show there are no particular personality traits that cause alcoholism to occur. What’s important is how much and how often someone drinks, not what kind of person they are” (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001). Ultimately college students are setting themselves up to become the alcoholics of the future because they drink when they’re depressed, stressed about school work, and to simply have a so-called good time. College students who abuse alcohol seem to find or have every reason to drink rather than not to drink.

Statistically, alcohol has caused a wealth of misfortune and death across the United States just among college students. “According to the Core Institute, an organization that surveys college drinking practices, 300,000 of today’s college students will eventually die of alcohol-related causes such as drunk driving accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, various cancers, and heart disease” (The College Experience, 2001). Drunk driving accidents are probably the biggest cause of deaths among the 300,000 college students that will eventually die because “drinking and driving have been reported by 60% of college men and 50% of college women who are binge drinkers” (The College Experience, 2001). Also “75% of male students and 55% of female students involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking at the time” (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001). “Between 75% and 90% of all violence on campuses is alcohol-related” (Marcus, 2000, p. 53). “Alcohol is a factor in 66% of student suicides and 60% of all sexually-transmitted diseases” (Marcus, 2000, p. 53).

Besides just misfortunes and deaths among college students who abuse alcohol, there is plenty of academic statistics that shows how alcohol affects a student’s performance in the classroom. Really it should be a miracle how some students can go out and drink as much as they do and still get their work done and eventually graduate. On the other hand, some students are not as fortunate as to survive drinking alcohol excessively for five years of their college career and still graduate. An alarming “159,000 of today’s first-year college students will drop out of school next year for alcohol-related reasons” (The College Experience, 2001). “Almost one-third of college students admit to having missed at least one class because of their alcohol use, and nearly one-quarter of students report bombing a test or project because of the aftereffects of drinking” (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001).

Considering how one test or one major project in an upper-level class can almost make or break whether or not a passing grade is received puts things into perspective as far as how important it is not to abuse alcohol in college. Also, it has been reported that students who drink excessively hinder their ability to think abstractly in class for up to three or four days after drinking (The College Experience, 2001). Alcohol abuse by college students really puts America far behind certain other countries such as China in academics when our U.S. students abuse alcohol more than any other country (Wechsler, Nelson, & Weitzman, 2000, p. 38).

Related more to health issues, college students who abuse alcohol are more likely to also obtain sexually transmitted diseases as well. Because most colleges these days are coed and alcohol is placed between young men and women were the social norm is to drink the chances for STD’s to arise is very prevalent. “College students spend $5.5 billion dollars on alcohol and drink an estimated 4 billion cans of beer annually. The total amount of alcohol consumed by college students each year is 430 million gallons, enough for every college and university in the United States to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool” (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001).

Mix this amount of alcohol consumption in between young men and women away from their parents for the first time and what you have is STD heaven. “As many as 70% of college students admit to having engaged in sexual activity primarily as a result of being under the influence of alcohol, or to having sex they wouldn’t have had if they had been sober” (The College Experience, 2001). An outstanding “60% of college women who are infected with STD’s, including genital herpes and AIDS, report that they were under the influence of alcohol at the time they had intercourse with the infected person” (The College Experience, 2001).

“According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 1500 college students is HIV positive, and the fastest-growing populations of American people infected with HIV are teenagers and young adults in college” (The College Experience, 2001). From all the statistics reported above, extremely large amounts of college students still abuse alcohol. A prevalent attraction is how cheap it is for college students to obtain alcohol in college and how much the media exposes college students to the idea that drinking alcohol is a social norm. “Beer manufacturers spend an estimated $15-20 million annually to promote their products to college students (Drinking: A Students Guide, 2001).


Simply offering scare tactics about alcohol abuse with impressive statistics and banged up cars really do not work completely to reduce the amount of excessive drinking going on in college. Successful solutions must be collaborative in nature. In conclusion, alcohol abuse among college students is a social phenomenon that is currently normative in nature. In other words, most everyone going to college and most everyone already in college expects to drink excessive amounts of alcohol because it’s socially accepted, and therefore college students do not view their excessive drinking habits as a problem.



 “Drinking: A Students Guide.”

 “Drinking To Get Drunk.” U.S. News & World Report Marcus, D. (March 27, 2000)

 “Emphasis on Social Norms Can Help Curb Drinking. Chronicle of Higher

Education.” GSU Library Webpage Mendelson, E. (October 20, 2000).

 “The College Experience.” Facts on Tap


 “From Knowledge to Action.” GSU Library Webpage Wechsler, H., Nelson T., &

Weitzman, E.

 Epstein, Joel, A Parent’s Guide to Sex, Drugs, and Flunking Out: Answers to the

Questions Your College Student Doesn’t Want You to Ask. Hazelden Information Education, September 2001.

 Jung, John, Psychology of Alcohol and Other Drugs: A Research Perspective. Sage

Publications, Inc., July 2000.


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