College Drinking

From an interview for Her Campus

college drinking

1. What would you answer to someone who said, “It’s not alcoholism until you graduate?” It’s not unusual for students to go through a period of time in college when they drink heavily and markedly reduce their drinking shortly after graduation. For many, drinking is part of the internal culture of being in college. However, if the drinking consistently results in dangerous or self- destructive behavior (e.g., blackouts, violence, impulsivity, etc.), an alcohol problem may already exist. Alcohol abuse can occur at any time, whether you are in high school, college, graduate school, in the work force, or in retirement.

2. Can you think of other myths about the drinking culture in college than need to be debunked?
A few of the more popular myths about college drinking include:

"I can drink and still be in control." In many ways drinking can badly impair judgement. It can result in injury, unprotected sex, date rape, or other hurtful behaviors.

"I can sober up quickly if I have to." Nothing can speed up the process – coffee, cold showers, energy drinks, Advil or vitamins. It takes about three hours to eliminate the alcohol in your system from two drinks, depending on your weight. On occasion, people of certain ethnic backgrounds may take even longer to metabolize it through their liver.

"Women can hold their liquor as well as men." Because women process alcohol differently (much of it due to differences in body weight), if a woman drinks the same amount as a man, you are more likely to be intoxicated or impaired.

3. What are the dangers of binge-drinking (especially in college)?

In colleges nationwide, 1,400 students between the ages of 18 to 24 annually die from alcohol misuse, 70,000 report sexual abuse that is alcohol-related, and there are 600,000 cases of assault reported by someone who has been drinking. Binge-drinking can cause an array of problems ranging from injury to unwanted pregnancy. Driving drunk can get you killed, get someone else killed, land you in jail, or result in tremendous property damage and serious long-term financial and legal problems. Even years later when applying for a job that requires a background check, the existence of a felony record could permanently prevent you from getting the job you want.

4. When does partying a lot cross the line into dangerous behavior, alcoholism, or a point where the individual needs to seek help?

Each year, 500,000 college students report unintentional injuries which were a direct result of alcohol use. When the the problem is bad enough that it damages relationships, causes poor academic performance, or contributes to physical harm, getting help becomes a necessity.

5. What steps should a college woman take towards a healthier relationship to alcohol?

Know your limitations and when to say no. Just because someone is offering you another drink doesn’t mean you have to accept it, especially if you are beginning to feel out of control. When going out for drinks, make sure you are with friends you trust and will watch out for you. Don’t drink and drive.

6. If she needs help, which resources should she turn to? All colleges have counseling centers where they can do an evaluation to determine what is the best way to move forward. Many colleges also have Alcohol Anonymous meetings on campus which can help provide a support system while attending school. Checking with your insurance provider can also help you obtain lists of therapists or programs that can help with alcohol problems. Further information on the topic of college drinking can be found on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.