Alcohol abuse among college students

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Alcohol abuse among college students is a phenomenon that has been present on campuses nationwide. While drinking itself is not illegal, the high amount of underage students that consume alcohol has presented many problems and consequences for universities nationwide. The causes of alcohol abuse tend to be peer pressure, greek life, and stress. College students who abuse alcohol can suffer from health concerns, poor academic performance or legal consequences. Prevention and treatment include campus counseling, stronger enforcement of underage drinking or changing the campus culture.


Binge Drinking[edit]

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is a condition where the Blood Alcohol Concentration Level (BAC) is .08 grams per deciliter (g/dl).[1] BAC is the measure of alcohol in one’s bloodstream; a BAC of 0.08, therefore, means that 0.08% of the bloodstream consists of alcohol.[2] Factors that can affect a person’s BAC include body weight, biological sex, medications, the number of drinks consumed, and the time during which they have been consumed.[2] In college, over 50% of students take part in binge drinking, while 80% of college students report having consumed alcohol during college.[3] Over half of universities’ student bodies consist of those under the legal drinking age of 21.[4] Underage drinking is when people below the legal drinking age consume alcohol. This fluctuates for every country: 21 in the United States, 18 in the United Kingdom.[4]


Peer Pressure[edit]

In 2001, there were 1717 unintentional deaths from the consumption of alcohol or other substances, which raised concerns on the excessive use of alcohol.[5] There are many causes of excessive drinking on college campuses. Many students report they felt peer pressured to consume large amounts of alcohol. Peer pressure may occur in multiple forms. One of the more indirect forms of peer pressure is social modelling.[6] In this method, the more “popular” people from a group could be consuming alcohol, and pressure others to drink in excess to fit in and be part of the larger group.[6]

Greek Life[edit]

A survey taken of one national chapter proved that 97% of their members were drinkers, and 64% of them took part in binge drinking.[7] This is higher than the usual college average of 80% drinkers and 50% binge drinkers.[3] Currently there are over 12,000 fraternity or sorority chapters in the United States with over 750,000 members which raises concerns for student college life at universities. A study showed that members who were part of a fraternity reported two or more symptoms of alcohol use disorder(AUD) at a rate of 45 for every 100 participants.[8] This number was greater than other participants with the average around 31 per 100 participants.[8] The same change was also seen in women who were part of a sorority with 26.4% of them having symptoms of AUD while close to 18% of other women felt the same effects.[8]


Stressors could include academic stress, family and relationship stress etc. Penn State released a study that showed that the more daily stressors students have in their lives, the more likely students are to engage in alcohol.[9] In the same study it was there was also a direct correlation with drinking to cope with stress and AUDs. There was a higher percentage of students who drank to cope with stress who developed AUDs through their professional career.[9]

Societal Influences[edit]

The rise of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and streaming platforms like Netflix show advertisements for alcoholic beverages.[6] These parties carry a stigma as everyone in the pictures and movies is seen to be having a great time. This encourages students, both in college and high school, to be more tempted to try alcohol or other substances as they too would like to be part of these events and not excluded from such “great” events.[6] The National Longitudinal Survey conducted an analysis in 1997 which showed that a 28% reduction in alcohol advertising theoretically will reduce adolescent alcohol participation by 2-3% and participation in binge drinking from 12% to between 11%-8%.[10]


Health Concerns[edit]

The consequences of binge drinking include alcohol poisoning, nausea and vomiting, unintentional injuries, increased risk of unplanned pregnancies and violent behavior.[11] In addition, each year, 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes, 696,000 college students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and 97,000 college students report an alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.[12] For students under the legal drinking age of 21 in the United States, alcohol use can result in future unhealthy behavior and impaired brain development as early college age is when the brain is developing.[12] According to studies by McLean Hospital, early alcohol drinking indicates serious problems  with alcohol later in life.[12]

Academic Performance[edit]

College students who engage in binge drinking tend to have lower grades than those who do not.[13] According to a study by The Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State, students who abuse alcohol showed a clear correlation with a lower GPA.[13] As the frequency of binge drinking increases, the GPA decreases.[13] Another study showed increased alcohol abuse directly links to poor motivation for school and poor academic performance.[14]

Student Misconduct[edit]

Alcohol use is involved in over half the sexual assault cases on college campuses.[15] For the most part, it is the men being intoxicated that commit acts of sexual assault.[15] In addition, sexual assaults involving alcohol tend to occur between a man and a woman that are not familiar to each other.[15] The very nature of being intoxicated from alcohol tends to make men feel more powerful and privileged, leading to an increase in risk that the man will sexually assault a woman.[15] Furthermore, a professor from Washington State University found through a study that men involved in heavy alcohol consumption are more likely to display acts of sexual aggression.[16]

Legal consequences[edit]

The legal consequences stemming from underage drinking can have severe impacts on a student’s life and career.[17] Students who get caught drinking alcohol underage face various repercussions from loss of driver’s license, fines, community service, or even jail time.[17] For those of age who are supplying minors with alcohol could also face severe consequences from being charged with a criminal offense to being arrested [17] Individual schools might also place their own sanctions on students who drink underage that can range from being on probation to expulsion.[18] Many schools also have strict regulations as to having alcohol or consuming alcohol regardless of age in university owned housing.[19][20] Doing so may result in warnings, probation, and ultimately removal from university owned housing and expulsion from university owned housing in the future [21]

Prevention and Treatment[edit]

Campus Counseling[edit]

Offering campus counseling is one way to prevent students from developing long term consequences.[22] Monitoring and prohibiting the use of fake IDs on or around campus is another way to prevent alcohol abuse amongst students.[23] According to recent statistics, the ownership of a fake ID increased from around 12% prior to entering college to about 32% by the end of sophomore year.[22] In addition, 51% of students say that it is incredibly easy to obtain alcohol on and off campus.[24] Fostering a campus culture that fights against binge drinking is another useful preventative method. According to a study done in 2006, 59% of incoming freshman enter college as non drinkers.[25] A little more than a month into the first semester, 44% of non drinkers begin drinking.[26] A way to combat the abuse of alcohol, especially among first year who are not considered to be drinkers, is to create more spaces and events that do not include alcohol.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ {}
  2. ^ a b "What is BAC? | Office of Alcohol Policy and Education".
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  7. ^ Borsari, Brian; Hustad, John T.P.; Capone, Christy (September 2009). "Alcohol Use in the Greek System, 1999–2009: A Decade of Progress". Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 2 (3): 216–255. doi:10.2174/1874473710902030216. ISSN 1874-4737. PMC 3746189. PMID 20443768.
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  13. ^ a b c "Study Shows Inverse Relationship Between Alcohol Abuse and Academic Performance of College Students — Penn State College of Education". Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  14. ^ El Ansari, Walid; Stock, Christiane; Mills, Claire (2013). "Is Alcohol Consumption Associated with Poor Academic Achievement in University Students?". International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 4 (10): 1175–1188. ISSN 2008-7802. PMC 3843305. PMID 24319558.
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  17. ^ a b c "Underage Drinking Laws - State-by-State Map".
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  23. ^ "NIAAA Publications".
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