College and Drinking Alcohol
We all know the scene in movies, or from our own hazy college experiences, that alcohol is an ever-present social lubricant often introduced to young adults for the first time in a university setting. With social pressure, more unsupervised free-time, and wide-spread availability of alcohol in college, many students are unaware of the potential implications of binge drinking. Overall, the effects might seem harmless to most, a right of passage, but for many the consequences last far into their lifetime.
Who is affected?
It is reported that 80% of college students, or four out of every five, consume some alcohol. Of those, 50% engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking, defined as drinking too much too fast for the body to process, is particularly dangerous for freshman in their first 6 weeks of university. Those who participate in underage binge drinking are 11 times more likely to also participate in risky behavior like physical violence, unsafe sexual interactions and other substance abuse. According to RAINN, among undergraduate students, 26% of females and 6.8% of males experience some sort of sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.
To compound the issue, in the last 20 years college students have preferred hard liquor, a much quicker way to black out or get alcohol poisoning. These are only a few of the consequences that can be warning signs of the beginning of alcohol use disorder, a much more serious and life-long result particularly for those predisposed to alcohol use disorder genetically.
What does alcohol use disorder mean?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder is a is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. A person’s risk for developing AUD depends, in part, on how much, how often, and how quickly they consume alcohol. Another risk factor is drinking at an early age, along with genetics, family history and mental health conditions.
So for many college students who are practicing unsafe binge-drinking, this can mean a lifelong issue that stems from drinking excessively at a young age. Although there are no exact timelines for the development of a dependency, alcohol use disorder is something anyone can develop, even when not predisposed, simply due to excessive use.
How can It be addressed?
A few good questions to ask yourself or a loved one is to first identify if alcohol use disorder is present, a good test is this questionnaire which can inform whether professional help is needed. Additionally identifying those at higher risk of potential binge drinking or alcohol use disorder can be helpful when dealing with a college-age student; some of these include, student athletes, members of Greek organizations, and first-year students.
If a you, a friend or family member is showing signs of early alcohol use disorder there are several resources that can help. Consult with your physician, an on-campus counselor who specializes in interventions, seek a twelve step meeting or seek therapy from on-campus services before the problem starts to produce serious consequences.
National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week – 3rd week in October