“Alcohol, low standards, and poor decisions” reads a sign outside a dive bar two blocks away from New York University. Groups of twenty-somethings eagerly walk in with one mission in mind: to get drunk. It is no surprise that college students drink alcohol; after all, red solo cups and keg stands are staples in American college culture. But what is surprising is that despite the research, anti-drinking campaigns, and stricter campus rules, two out of three college students still engage in binge drinking.
What is binge drinking?
There’s a misconception among college students that binge drinking means drinking until you blackout. And while you can certainly blackout from excessive drinking, binge drinking does not simply mean you are stumbling around or vomiting. Binge drinking is drinking enough to raise your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08. Typically, that means four drinks for women, and five for men ─ in a period of two hours.
If you have ever been to a frat party, or any party for that matter, you know how easy it is to consume four or five drinks without even realizing how much alcohol you have consumed. Beer pong and Jell-O shots add up, too.
Why is it so dangerous?
- Over 1,800 students die every year of alcohol-related causes
- Over 30,000 students each year need emergency healthcare for alcohol overdose
Not only does binge drinking negatively affect students physically and mentally, but it can also have a tremendous impact on their academics.
- Alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all academic problems
- Alcohol is a factor in 28 percent of college dropouts
Why do college students drink so much?
It is more than socially acceptable to drink excessively among young adults – just take a look at the Instagram account of any college student. You can now do anything you want, blame it on alcohol, and be excused. Poor decisions are encouraged, especially if they make for a great Snapchat story. And being able to drink a lot has become something to brag about. But why? Mostly, the fear of missing out.
It has been ingrained into the brains of students that drinking alcohol is a part of college life, and many feel that if they do not partake in partying that they are not truly experiencing college. To them, drinking seems like innocent fun, a way to relax from their heavy course load, or an easy way to loosen up and make new friends. And while having a drink or two sounds harmless, college students rarely stop there. The more they drink, the less concerned they are about the consequences. And what is shocking is that having bad drinking experiences rarely deters them from binge drinking again.
One would assume that if someone drinks so much that they end up spending the night curled up on the bathroom floor throwing up, they might take it easy next time they go out. Yet, college students seem to easily forget the downsides of their heavy drinking and only focus on the good times. But the truth is that all those great conversations that you had while heavily intoxicated were probably nothing but gibberish, and those deep friendships you think you made probably won’t exist when there is no vodka to serve as a common bond.
So, how can you experience college without binge drinking?
Think About the Future
Stop living your life like you are in The Hangover, Superbad, or any typical college movie. Those movies are not real life, and your actions definitely have real consequences. Remember, you are in college because you want a great future. Getting arrested for drunk driving, failing out of college, or developing a drinking problem certainly won’t help you reach that future. So, put that drink down and focus on studying, meeting new people, learning about other cultures, and finding what you are passionate about.
If you don’t think that you can attend a party and abstain from excessive drinking, then find other alternatives. The wonderful thing about college is that there is always something fun going on – a play, a concert, a game, a movie night, etc. And yes, a lot of students do drink, but not all do, so you can definitely find people to join you in a sober night of fun. And remember, a friendship based on a real connection is much more valuable than one based on who can do the most keg stands.
In a culture where binge drinking is the norm, it is sometimes hard to admit that you have a drinking problem. But know that you are not alone if you do. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there has been an increase of 141 percent between 1999 and 2009 of college students checking into addiction recovery programs. Because of this, a lot of college campuses offer a variety of resources for their students to get the help they need. So, if you are concerned about your drinking or a friend’s drinking, speak to your adviser, a trusted faculty member, or a family member. Help is out there, and it can be life-changing.