[How to] Address Drinking Problems for College Students
When you send your child off to college, you hope for the best – the best classes, the best education, the best social experience. You may also harbor fears for your child – safety, making the right choices, health concerns. You don’t want to end up fretting about how to address drinking problems for students.
If the dangers of college drinking have you worried, you are in good company. Harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States. Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem.
For information about alcohol awareness for college students, please call 614-502-6247. We can help find alcohol awareness programs for college students, as well as programs that can help get your teen in the right mindset before they head off to college.
The first six weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences. Alcohol use will impact nearly every college student during their academic career.
Consequences of Underage College Drinking
As horrific as the effects of alcohol abuse are on adults, underage drinking can often be worse on teens or college students. Drinking affects college students, their families, and college communities at large. About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing or falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.
Before college begins, alcohol awareness for college students should include serious information, for instance:
- Roughly 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
- About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
- Roughly 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
Other consequences include suicide attempts, major health issues, blackouts, injuries, unsafe sex or regretted sexual experiences, vandalism, property damage, involvement with the police, and driving under the influence.
Thousands of college students end up in the emergency room each year for alcohol overdose (better known as alcohol poisoning), which occurs when high levels of alcohol suppress the nervous and respiratory systems and the body struggles to rid itself of toxins from the breakdown of alcohol.
For example, signs of this dangerous condition can include: mental confusion; stupor; coma or the person cannot be roused; vomiting; slow or irregular breathing; hypothermia or low body temperature; and bluish or pale skin. As part of alcohol education for college students, they need to understand that alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
While some side effects are temporary and go away within a matter of days, others can affect a person for years to come. Frequent heavy drinking greatly increases the chance of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which can cause serious physical and emotional damage.
What is Binge Drinking?
College alcoholism affects millions of students every year. The college years are some of the most popular times to experiment with alcohol and provide a ready-made opportunity for a problem to develop in those who are susceptible. It is all too common for families to be forced to consider how to address drinking problems for students.
Roughly 80% of college students – four out of every five – consume alcohol to some degree. It’s estimated that 50% of those students engage in binge drinking, defined as when a person consumes an excessive amount of alcohol in a short timeframe.
Moreover, for men, binge drinking involves drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in two hours; binge drinking for women is considered four or more drinks within a two-hour time period. In a national survey of college students, binge drinkers who consumed alcohol at least three times per week were roughly six times more likely than those who drank but never binged to perform poorly on a test or project as a result of drinking (40% vs. 7%) and five times more likely to have missed a class (64% vs. 12%).
Areas of Concern
The high-risk period of binge drinking for college students is during the first six weeks of their freshman year. Many of these students give in to peer pressure and begin drinking soon after the first day of classes. Alcohol use is commonly viewed as the “college experience” that students desire. They want to fit in and make new friends, so they keep drinking without thinking about the potential consequences involved.
However, within the last couple of decades, college students have started consuming more hard liquor than beer. Rather than drinking to socialize, an increasing number of young adults are drinking to get drunk. Since liquor has one of the highest alcohol percentages by volume, it takes fewer drinks to feel its effects.
The end goal for some is to drink as much as possible or blackout. These outcomes are extremely dangerous and can possibly lead to life-threatening effects, such as alcohol poisoning, as alcohol awareness programs for college students should make this clear. Do you know someone that is suffering from binge drinking? Call our experts today and we can help you figure out the best course of treatment for you and your needs.
Why College Students Drink
Although the majority of students come to college already having some experience with alcohol, certain aspects of college life, such as unstructured time, the widespread availability of alcohol, inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, and limited interactions with parents and other adults, can intensify the problem. In fact, college students have higher binge-drinking rates and a higher incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol than their non-college peers. Alcohol education for college students is imperative.
The first six weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year. Even in college, friends, the media, and social platforms exert a great deal of pressure. Students attending schools with strong Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types of schools.
However, in terms of living arrangements, alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and sororities and lowest among commuting students who live with their families.
Some common reasons why college students drink:
- Friendship – many students go to different colleges and miss their high school friends.
- Social belonging – it’s important to fit into a crowd.
- Boredom – when bored, drinking is a great form of entertainment.
- Fear of missing out (FOMO) – they want to make great memories of their college experience.
- Stress relief – students may turn to alcohol because of its relaxant effects.
- Lowering inhibitions – students may feel drinking allows them to become less inhibited or makes them sexier.
Nearly every college student has been impacted by alcohol use during their academic career – even if they have never had a drink themselves. Figuring out how to address drinking problems for students is vital, even for non-drinkers. Heavy drinking affects more than just an individual; however, it can destroy anything in its path, including friendships and relationships.
Addressing the College Drinking Problem
There are steps colleges and universities can take with alcohol awareness programs for college students, toward positive change and creating a healthy environment, for instance:
- Pay careful attention to environmental factors on campus and in the community. They are extremely important in influencing college drinking behaviors both positively and negatively.
- Actively enforce existing age 21 laws on campus; they help decrease alcohol consumption.
- Use social norms interventions to correct misperceptions and change drinking practices. When discussing alcohol awareness for college students, do not inadvertently reinforce the notion that hazardous drinking is the norm. Help students understand that they have the right not to drink.
- Make information about alcohol prevention programs for college students available to both students and parents, before and after students arrive on campus.
- Be cautious about making alcohol available on campus. In the general population, increased availability is associated with increased consumption.
Below are some things your teen will need to understand before they head off to college, to keep themselves and others safe if they choose to drink.
- Learn your limit.
- No dinner, no drink. Alcohol on an empty stomach is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.
- Skip a few rounds. Drink juice or water instead.
- If it’s not available in a bar, don’t drink it. Mixing alcohol with sugary juice can be dangerous especially if you don’t measure.
- Don’t put the nozzle directly in your mouth. Stick to amounts you can actually see in your glass.
- Don’t mix alcohol and drugs.
- One hour = one drink. Drinking faster leads to drunkenness.
- Alcohol should only have a supporting role. Making alcohol the focus of an evening puts on pressure to continue drinking.
- Avoid going in the water. Balance and coordination are prerequisites for swimming – and two of the first things diminished by alcohol.
- Watch your drink to prevent “spiking.”
If you need help talking to your college student about binge drinking then call us today. Our specialists will work with you in order to help you in any way possible. Do not hesitate. Call us now.
Treatment is Available
Successful efforts to improve the understanding of how to address drinking problems for students, including the persistent and costly issue of harmful and underage student drinking, involve a mix of strategies. These will target individual students, the student body as a whole, and the broader college community.
In addition, individual-level interventions target students, including those in higher-risk groups such as first-year students, student-athletes, and members of Greek organizations. They are designed to change students’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to alcohol so that they drink less, take fewer risks and experience fewer harmful consequences. Categories of individual-level interventions include:
- Education and awareness programs
- Cognitive-behavioral skills-based approaches
- Motivation and feedback-related approaches
- Behavioral interventions by health professionals
- Strategies Targeting the Campus and Surrounding Community
Environmental-level strategies target the campus community and student body as a whole and are designed to change the campus and community environments in which student drinking occurs. Often, a major goal is to reduce the availability of alcohol, because research shows that reducing alcohol availability cuts consumption and harmful consequences on campuses as well as in the general population. Equally important are alcohol prevention programs for college students.
To summarize, research shows that students who choose not to drink often do so because their parents discussed alcohol use and its adverse consequences with them. We can help with these conversations with your college-bound teen. Call 614-502-6247 today to talk to one of our addiction experts.
Written by Kate Schwab
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