In social environments such as college, being sober can sometimes feel like social suicide to some students who are just trying to fit in. Pressure on students begins in freshman year, as students seek their niche and a crowd to follow during the next four years of their lives. This may very well be why students in the freshman age group are more prone to alcohol abuse than any other college student demographic. In one study of 255 college students who required substance abuse interventions or emergency medical attention because of substance abuse, 42.3 percent of them were freshmen.1
Preventing Alcohol Problems Before They Begin (or Worsen)
One of the best ways to ensure your drinking doesn’t get out of control during the college years is to seek out other students who are also interested in abstaining. The crowd you hang around with is going to have a large influence on what you do with your time. Finding roommates to live with off-campus is another option, since it is easier to control the environment than in a dorm.
Many campuses are now home to sober parties, too. If you’re struggling to fit in and find yourself using alcohol as a social lubricant to make it easier to warm up to others at parties or simply to find a group of people to hang out with, you’re drinking for the wrong reasons. It will always benefit you to take interest in social activities that don’t require drinking, such as dinners with friends, sporting events, or concerts. You’re far more likely to blend in at one of these events than a party on campus where the only thing that is really going on is drinking.
Of course, drinking doesn’t always start in college. Many who attend college have had experiences with alcohol before they signed up at their would-be alma mater. It is important to note that the age at which you start drinking may have a serious effect on your future relationship with alcohol. Among young people aged 12 to 20 years old, the average age of a first drink is 16.1 years old.2 Rates of substance abuse increase from 5.2 percent during the adolescent years to 17.3 percent during early adulthood.3
Overcoming Alcohol Addiction
The good news is that more college-aged students seek help for alcohol use issues than ever before. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities among people aged 18 to 24 in America rose by 141.3 percent.4 Many will abuse drugs or alcohol during their undergraduate years and go on to become professionals with stable lives that lack any semblance of binge drinking, marijuana use and other illicit drug use. If college students were screened for their alcohol consumption alone during their years in attendance, 40 percent of them would fit the criteria for alcoholism.5
Overdose is a scary reality for many people. Alcohol is linked to the deaths of over 1,800 students annually.6 Another 600,000 are injured while intoxicated every year.7 The vast majority of them were living out their college years as they saw fit, just like everyone else. For instance, 19-year-old Lafayette College student died in his sleep in 2012 after passing out following a long night of drinking for his birthday celebration; he died of a heart attack in his room alone.8
There are other adverse effects that stem from binge drinking, too. Some 696,000 students aged 18 to 24 are the victims of assault by a peer who has been drinking each year.9 Over 400,000 students in the same age group engage in unprotected sex due to drinking every year, too.10
Thankfully, comprehensive care can help get students who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse back on the right track. If needed, detox and rehab can address the issues that led to the substance abuse in the first place, so students can move forward in their academic careers and leave substance abuse behind for good.
1 1 Bergen-Cico, D. “Patterns of Substance Abuse and Attrition among First-Year Students.” 2000. Journal of the First-Year Experience. Accessed 19 June 2017.
2 “Prevalence of Underage Drinking.” Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins University. (n.d.). Accessed 19 June 2017.
3 Conlin, J. “Not the Usual College Party (This One’s Sober).” New York Times. 27 February 2015. Accessed 19 June 2017.
4 Benton, S.A. “Staying Sober is Possible-in College!” Psychology Today. 30 August 2011. Accessed 19 June 2017.
5 Szalavitz, M. “DSM-5 Could Categorize 40% of College Students as Alcoholics.” TIME Magazine. 14 May 2012. Accessed 19 June 2017.
6 McMurtrie, B. “Why Colleges Haven’t Stopped Binge Drinking.” New York Times. 14 December 2014. Accessed 19 June 2017.
8 Cox, L. “Tragedy as student dies on his 19th birthday after too much alcohol causes heart attack.” 6 May 2012. Accessed 19 June 2017.
9 Lucier, K.L. “Know the Facts About College Binge Drinking.” U.S. News. 2 November 2011. Accessed 19 June 2017.