Signs of Alcoholism in College Students

Whether or not we choose to believe it, drinking alcohol is a major part of college culture. Binge drinking and heavy drinking are both prevalent amongst the college population. In fact, according to a 2016 study, about 38% of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 reported that they had problems with binge drinking. About 10.5% reported that they had engaged in heavy drinking.

For many college students, this time in their lives becomes an opportunity for them to experiment with many different activities, including alcohol use. While many students engage in somewhat heavy drinking during college and then move on to adjust to healthy adult lives, others often find themselves addicted to alcohol due to their binge drinking in college. Thus, alcoholism in college students often leads to major alcohol use problems later in life.

Alcohol Abuse Definition: What is Binge Drinking?

Alcohol use is legal. But, unfortunately, this substance is abused far too often. In most cases, people who abuse alcohol do not even realize they are doing so. Alcohol abuse comes in many forms, including:

  • Binge drinking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Inappropriate drinking (Consuming alcohol while pregnant, underage, etc.)

Many of the students who are in college engage in underage drinking, consuming alcohol before they are 21 years old. This is alcohol abuse in that it’s the illegal use of a substance. Sometimes, women who are pregnant consume alcohol, putting themselves in their unborn child in danger.

The definition of heavy drinking is based on the individual who is drinking. For women, heavy drinking would be defined as having about 8 or more drinks per week. Men who drink heavily have about 15 or more drinks per week.

Binge drinking is a problem that is often overlooked. Many people find themselves in situations where they’ve had a little too much to drink. But, binge drinking is a recurring problem that affects a lot of individuals, including young adults in college. In fact, this is one of the main types of alcoholism in college students.

So, what is binge drinking? Simply put, women who drink about 4 or more drinks in one sitting (approximately 2 hours) or men who drink about 5 or more drinks in that time would be considered to have a binge drinking problem. Individuals who have this struggle with alcohol use often suffer from serious binge drinking effects. This is why it’s so important for individuals who struggle with any form of excessive drinking to get professional help right away.

Common Signs of Alcoholism in College Students

Unfortunately, many college students do not think that their drinking behaviors could ever develop into a more serious issue; however, it is becoming more common with each class that enters into this type of school setting. Some of the most common signs of alcoholism in college students include the following:

  • Irresponsibility – College is one of the first places where students are encouraged to become independent and responsible for themselves and their actions, including doing well in school and maintaining a well-balanced life. When a college student begins to drink to excess, he or she is more likely to lack in terms of responsibility. Some individuals might not show up to class or may be consistently late. Many students fail to complete their assignments because of their drinking habits. And many fail to take their living situation seriously.
  • Legal issues – When drinking becomes a problem, many college students will begin experiencing legal issues pertaining to their alcohol misuse. This can include receiving one or more DUI’s, being kicked off campus, or having a run-in with the local police.
  • Tolerance – As a student continues to drink heavily, he or she is going to build up a strong tolerance. This means that the individual’s body will no longer be affected by small amounts of alcohol. As a result, he or she will need to drink more in order to achieve the desired effect of alcohol.
  • Withdrawal – Most people who drink experience a hangover from time to time. But for those who are abusing alcohol, these hangovers can quickly turn into withdrawal symptoms that can keep them from engaging in their day-to-day lives. This can cause them to keep drinking to avoid these withdrawal episodes, leading to full-blown alcoholism.

College students’ lives can quickly begin to spiral out of control if their alcohol use becomes excessive. Not only will they begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms, increased tolerance, and serious personal consequences of their use, but they may also neglect everything and everyone who would have otherwise attempted to help them succeed in college.

How Alcohol Affects College Students: Long-Term Binge Drinking Effects

Heavy drinking between the ages of 18 and 25 can permanently increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the heart’s arterial walls), according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study involved 38 non-smoking adults that were divided into two groups: those who abstained from alcohol and those who were binge drinking in college (five or more servings of alcohol in two hours, at least six times a month for four years). The study found that those who abstained from drinking had elastic blood vessels that dilated with relative ease compared to the blood vessels of the binge drinkers.

This is an important finding of how alcohol affects college students because blood vessel function and damage are indicators of potential cardiovascular issues in the future. Shockingly, the American College of Cardiology reports that binge drinking in college can do as much damage to cardiovascular health as having six or more drinks every day for a lifetime.

It’s reported that about 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related injuries every year. And, every year, many individuals in this age group (18-25 years old) attempt suicide due to alcohol use problems. So, needless to say, the impact of binge drinking is much more serious than many people realize.

It seems that the list of binge drinking effects doesn’t end when college students move on and into the workforce. The potential for long-term consequences is a clear indication that the phenomenon of binge drinking in college needs more attention.

Overcoming Binge Drinking and Alcoholism

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, Northbound Treatment Services can help. Our highly-trained clinical staff has developed comprehensive programs at our drug and alcohol treatment centers. For more information about our services, visit our admissions page.

Alcoholism doesn’t have to be a part of your life any longer. You can end your struggle with this substance use problem and find total freedom through our professional treatment program. Our mission is to help you become and remain free from addiction. So, let us walk with you as you work towards the recovery you deserve!

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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