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The College Drinking Experience

July 11, 2014  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

Most recent graduates of Falmouth High School and Falmouth Academy are headed for college campuses around the country, an exciting and challenging experience. It’s important for you and your teen to understand the drinking and drug culture that is prevalent on college campuses and for you to have the knowledge and tools to help your son or daughter have a safe and healthy experience. 

Consequences of Abusive College Drinking

There are more than 13 million full-time college students in the U.S., studying (and partying) on more than 7,000 college campuses. 

The following information is from a recent report published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Abusive and underage college drinking are significant public health problems that exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States.

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. Research shows that more than 80 percent of college students drink alcohol, and almost half report binge drinking in the past 2 weeks.

Virtually all college students experience the effects of college drinking—whether they drink or not. The problem with college drinking is not only the drinking itself, but the negative consequences for the student body, the greater college community, and students’ families.

The consequences of drinking include:

Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.

Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Unsafe Sex: Each year an estimated 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 have unprotected sex, and more than 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex.

Drunk Driving: Each year an estimated 3,360,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 drive under the influence of alcohol.

Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.

Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.

Health Problems/Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.

Although the majority of students come to college already having some experience with alcohol, certain aspects of college life, such as unstructured time, the widespread availability of alcohol, inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, and limited interactions with parents and other adults, can intensify the problem. In fact, college students have higher binge­ drinking rates and a higher incidence of drunk driving than their non­-college peers.

The first 6 weeks of freshman year is an especially vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol­ related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year.

Campus Safety 

The Office of Postsecondary Education, part of the U.S. Department of Education, maintains a Campus Safety and Security Statistics database. All colleges and universities that receive Federal funding must report their crime statistics, including any incident either on or off its campus involving alcohol. Two public universities in Massachusetts are among the worst (within the top 30) in the nation based on campus arrests for violation of the state liquor laws. In 2012, there were 129 alcohol-related arrests at Bridgewater State University and 289 at UMass Amherst.

Upcoming articles will include binge drinking on college campuses, drug abuse on college campuses, and things you can do to help your off-to-college teen.

Recommended Resource:

Underage Drinking: Access to in-depth information from the National Library of Medicine. 

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