Each year, thousands of doe-eyed college freshmen will settle into their dorms anxiously awaiting their first moments of college life. College years are a transformative, exploratory time in a young adult's life. Parental influence is lessened and teens are given the opportunity to spread their wings.
Our free resources can help you start the conversation about substance abuse and addiction.
For many, newfound freedom comes with temptation. Alcohol abuse among college students may be more common than you think. While there has been a steady decrease in alcohol consumption among college students in the United States over the last 10 years, binge drinking is still the most prevalent alcohol-related issue that students face.
According to the National Institutes of Health, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol intake that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or more in a short period of time. Binge drinking – which typically occurs over less than 2 hours – is 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women. Simply put, it is high-risk drinking.
The effects of binge drinking
Students who engage in binge drinking can suffer academic consequences including absences and poor grades. Furthermore, it can increase their risk for serious short and longterm consequences which can include:
- Chronic health problems like high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease
- Cancers such as breast cancer, liver cancer, and esophageal cancer
- Increased risk of violence like sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide, and suicide
- Negative impacts on their mental health, memory, and learning
- An increased risk of alcohol dependence
- Risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated or getting into a car with an intoxicated driver
- Death or serious injuries
What causes binge drinking in college students?
Studies show that the first six weeks of a college freshman’s first semester are critical. This is when habits related to future academic success are formed. This is also when drinking alcohol starts or is exacerbated, often due to student expectations and social pressures, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Peer pressure, or pressure from extracurricular organizations like sororities and fraternities, can play a large role in the culture that surrounds heavy drinking. More than 80% of American youth consume alcohol before their 21st birthday. With those statistics working against your college freshman, talking with them about how to deal with peer pressure is crucial. As a parent, you may not be able to prevent your child from consuming alcohol underage, but you can educate them on the dangers of binge drinking.
7 Tips for talking to your college freshman about binge drinking
- Make it an open discussion. Allow your child to voice his/her opinions as well.
- Suggest alternative ways to say “no” to peer pressure.
- Avoid blanket statements and stick to “I” statements regarding your child's drinking.
- Be honest about your own drinking history, but be careful not to glamorize it.
- Compromise on a contact schedule, whether that be a phone call home once a week or a regular video chat. It’s important to give your child freedom while maintaining accountability by checking in with family.
- Encourage their involvement in activities that don’t include alcohol. College students may drink to fit in or reduce social anxiety. Extracurricular activities like intramural sports or art classes provide a space for them to socialize without the pressure to drink.
- Review the free resources that are available for your student on his/her college campus. The student affairs office, local counseling center, or even their dorm’s Resident Advisor are all great resources for dealing with binge drinking pressure and other alcohol-related issues.
Talking to your child about the dangers of binge drinking can be difficult, but maintaining an open line of communication is vital, especially when they are no longer living at home.
If you are coping with binge drinking or substance abuse in your family, you might find our free addiction resources helpful. When you’re ready, you can contact one of our counseling centers for more information about alcohol addiction treatment. There is hope for recovery and we can help you get there.