Alcohol Use in College
Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem. According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe (SAMSA).
Many college alcohol problems are related to binge drinking. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.
Drinking this way can pose serious health and safety risks, including car crashes, drunk-driving arrests, sexual assaults, and injuries. Over the long term, frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs.
How much is a drink?
To avoid binge drinking and its consequences, college students (and all people who drink) are advised to track the number of drinks they consume over a given period of time. That is why it is important to know exactly what counts as a drink.
In the United States, a standard drink is one that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
- 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content
- 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content
Unfortunately, although the “standard” drink amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes. A large cup of beer, an over-poured glass of wine, or a single mixed drink could contain much more alcohol than a standard drink. In addition, while the alcohol concentrations listed are “typical,” there is considerable variability in alcohol content within each type of beverage (e.g., beer, wine, distilled spirits).
Alcohol poisoning and college students
Thousands of college students are transported to the emergency room each year for alcohol poisoning, which occurs when high levels of alcohol suppress the nervous and respiratory systems and the body struggles to rid itself of toxins produced from the breakdown of alcohol. Signs of this dangerous condition can include:
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or the person cannot be roused
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Hypothermia or low body temperature, bluish or pale skin
Alcohol poisoning can lead to permanent brain damage or death, so a person showing any of these signs requires immediate medical attention. Don’t wait. Call 911 if you suspect alcohol poisoning.
For more information, visit the resources below.
Alcohol and Substance Use Resources
What Is A.A.?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.
To find the nearest AA meeting that fits your schedule call 800-245-1377 or visit https://www.nnjaa.org/intergroup/cgi-bin/search_nearby_zipcode.php
What is Al Anon?
Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, families and friends of alcoholics can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic admits the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.
To find the nearest Al-Anon meeting, call 973-744-8686 or visit https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/find-an-al-anon-meeting/.