College is designed to be a place where young individuals can form their personality and make decisions that are going to impact their lives for years to come. It is during this time that many young people are first exposed to alcohol. Research says that four out of five students consume alcohol. Half of that group have admitted to engaging in binge drinking. What is binge drinking? Why is alcohol abuse during the university years so dangerous?
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a pattern of excessive alcohol use. It is where a person drinks so much alcohol that their blood alcohol concentration level rises to 0.08 g per percent or more. The idea of binge drinking is to reach this level of intoxication in a relatively short time, usually two hours or less. For men, this means consuming five or more drinks. For women, this typically means consuming four or more drinks within two hours.
It is essential to highlight that alcohol abuse and addiction are entirely different things. Addiction is a brain disorder where the structure of the brain changes in response to a prolonged period, maybe months or years, of excessively drinking alcohol. When a person is addicted to a substance such as alcohol, getting alcohol becomes their primary concern. They will jeopardize friends, family, employment, their dignity, their health, and their well-being to get access to alcohol.
Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is heavy alcohol use. It is something that an individual could engage in just one time, or it could become a pattern of life that eventually may lead to an alcohol use disorder.
Binge drinkers do not typically binge drink every single day. For this reason, young adults who engage in this activity may mistakenly believe that they do not have a problem. They may be able to binge drink on the weekends and then during the week go about their daily activities, such as their studies, groups projects, employment, and maintaining healthy relationships with others.
Still, individuals who binge drink face serious problems, especially when this behavior begins during their college years. For example, consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period, even if it’s done just once, can lead to serious long-term health issues. There have been several reports of young adults on campuses dying because of alcohol poisoning connected to binge drinking.
Binge drinking can easily lead to increased physical tolerance. This is in and of itself dangerous. When a person binge drinks, it is because they want to feel the effect of alcohol in a short amount of time. As they build up a tolerance, though, they will need to drink more and more to get the same high or buzz that they did previously with smaller amounts. This leads to an increased risk of alcohol dependence and eventual alcoholism.
The sad truth is that the habits an individual develops while they are in university can become the habits that follow them for the rest of their life. Students who get into the habit of overdrinking while young put themselves at risk of battling alcohol abuse for the rest of their life.
Why Is Binge Drinking Such of a Problem among Young Adults?
Every year, thousands of kids head off to institutions of higher learning. In short order, they find that their social life revolves around alcohol consumption. Inexperience and a desire to fit in with older students or more experienced ones lead many of these students to drink in excess. From there, they develop a problematic pattern of excessive alcohol consumption.
Several studies have examined the life of students and have found that those who are between the ages of 18 and 22 consume alcohol monthly, and two-thirds admit to binge drinking on the occasions when they did drink. For these young individuals, moderation is not a consideration.
When you up to the age to young adults from 18 years of age to 24 years of age in a campus environment, you see that they are more likely to drink excessively as opposed to individuals in the same age group who did not go to an institution of higher learning.
There are a couple of factors that come into play. The first factor is social pressure. The impact of social influence and university age drinking is seen when we look at the number of students who binge drink and belong to fraternities or sororities as opposed to those who do not. Individuals who belong to these groups drink more.
The second factor is the availability of alcohol to students of all ages in institutes of higher learning. Young people who live on campus do not have the same supervision they may have had at home. They are surrounded by people who can provide them with alcohol, even if the student is underage.
A third factor is just how difficult it can be, especially for younger students, to put up with the pressure that they are under while in school. As a result, young students often turn to alcohol as a way to relieve stress and numb themselves to the sense of failure or impending failure that they feel.
The Impact of Excessive Drinking While Young
It is clear to see how excessive alcohol consumption has damaged the lives of young people while in centers of higher education. Annually, 88,000 people die in the United States as a result of alcohol consumption. Of this group, more than 1,800 are between the ages of 18 and 24. It is estimated that annually, more than 690,000 students in centers of higher learning are assaulted by other students who have been drinking. There are more than 97,000 reports of sexual assault and rape among that same group connected to drinking.
When young people drink with others on campus, they may feel like they have a vibrant social life. Drinking may create positive outcomes, such as having more friends, feeling more relaxed, and enjoying a sense of confidence. It is clear to see why when you take all the perceived positives that come from drinking and couple that with the reward reinforcing intoxication that comes from drinking, many young people develop alcoholism.
This causes them feelings of loneliness or low self-esteem. This is especially true for individuals who have come from families that have a more conservative background where drinking alcohol of any sort was seen as wrong, as well as individuals who come from families that have been destroyed because one or more family members drink excessively.
Binge drinking and alcohol abuse should never be thought of as a regular part of attending a center of higher education. It can have serious short-term effects, and it can lead to negative consequences that could affect a person for the rest of their life.
As the effects binge drinking have, especially on younger people, are becoming more evident, more and more programs are being created on campus to help young people break free. Many off-campus rehab facilities have created programs that are specifically designed to address the unique needs of young adults.