Drinking alcohol, including excessive or binge drinking, has become a commonplace ritual at colleges that students see as an inherent part of their overall college experience. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over 1800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including alcohol poisoning. Research shows that about 80% of college students drink alcohol. Furthermore, 31% of college students were diagnosed with abusing alcohol based on self-reported questionnaires, and 6% of these students were diagnosed with alcohol dependency.
Drinking is an epidemic at colleges and has devastating effects considering the educational and social opportunities that are lost to college students who are struggling with alcohol abuse. From problems in the classroom to physical injuries, including sexual assault, alcohol has created a dangerous subculture within many college campuses around the US. Virtually all students experience the effects of campus drinking, regardless of whether they drink or abstain.
Colleges have a responsibility to educate students in a safe and positive environment. By condoning or ignoring the issues related to campus drinking and activities involving alcohol, colleges are failing students, parents, and society as a whole.
College students are young and often under the assumption that they are invincible. After all, college students drink, often bingeing, without the worry of cirrhosis of the liver or other alcohol-related physical problems associated with decades of drinking. Yet college students are getting hurt every day as a result of alcohol. From fist fights to falling over drunk, students are hurting themselves regularly due to drinking. The NIAAA notes that, annually, almost 600,000 college students aged 18 to 24 years are injured while influenced by alcohol. Additionally, over 690,000 students of the same age are victims of assault perpetrated by students under the influence of alcohol. Over 150,000 students develop alcohol-related health problems each year, and between 1.2% and 1.5% of students have tried to commit suicide related to drinking or drugs.
Sexually Related Problems
When under the influence of alcohol, college students have altered inhibitions that lead them to believe they are powerful and unstoppable. It is little wonder that the NIAAA reports that more than 97,000 students aged 18 to 24 years are victims of date rape or other sexual assaults every year when either they or the perpetrators were under the influence of alcohol. Also, unsafe sex is rampant in alcohol-fueled situations, as noted by the 400,000 college-aged students who reported having unprotected sex while intoxicated.
The young men and women of our society attend college to get a degree that will lead to employment. Unfortunately, for those students struggling with the college campus alcohol epidemic, learning is lacking in the classroom. According to the NIAAA, approximately 25% of students are struggling academically as a result of drinking alcohol. Academic issues reported include:
- Poor results on papers and exams
- Falling behind their fellow classmates
- Missing classes and study sessions
- Lower overall grades
Unless there is a public outcry for these institutions of higher learning to stop ignoring these issues, the abuse of alcohol on campuses throughout the US will continue. Improvements could include alcohol education that explains the negative impact and corrects students’ misperceptions about drinking and how much their peers drink. Colleges could foster an environment that provides and encourages alcohol-free campus activities. Academia could also encourage more Friday classes in order to reduce the number of long weekends.
- College Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/college-drinking.
- Sherman T. Death of Rutgers sophomore raises new questions about campus drinking. NJ.com website. September 23, 2014. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/death_of_rutgers_sophmore_raises_new_concerns_ about_campus_drinking.html.