For most people in their late teen years and early 20s, their social life is conflated with, or even dependent on, drinking alcohol. In college, when students escape the restrictions of living at home with parents, they often get caught up in the alcoholic whirlwind of college life. Binge drinking is undeniably normalized in college culture, especially at large schools where Greek life and NCAA sports prevail, or proclaimed “party schools.” Around 60 percent of college students, aged 18 to 22, admitted to drinking alcohol in the past month, and almost two out of three of them binge drank during that time.
For college students, this well-established drinking culture holds a certain appeal, and for those who do choose to partake, there are undeniable benefits. In a 2007 study, there were three main recognized motivators for college students to drink: social camaraderie, mood enhancement and tension reduction. None of these motives are surprising. For example, if you have a stressful week at school, oftentimes you are going to look forward to ending that week on State Street or drinking a cheap bottle of wine to escape the pressures of school.
Similarly, for many campus organizations, events with alcohol are the primary form of social gatherings. Moreover, for most, alcohol diminishes your inhibitions, making meeting and bonding with people significantly easier. College is the best time to experiment socially, and alcohol does help with that process. Ultimately, alcohol can make your transition into college life easier, and if drinking is something you enjoy, then it can make being at college a really good time.
In the same way people find enjoyment in drinking, there are a slew of negative impacts; hangovers and a decline in academic performance are just some of the consequences of heavy drinking. However, something that is rarely discussed is the potential for alcoholism to start in college. Alcohol is the most regularly used addictive substance in the United States, and one out of every 12 adults suffer from alcohol dependency or addiction. Binge drinking regularly in combination with the stress of college life is a breeding ground for alcohol dependency. Moreover, genetic components can predispose people to alcoholism, with children of alcoholics being three to four times more likely to develop this addiction in adulthood.
Alcoholism is an incredibly damaging, but increasingly common disease, and is accompanied by an abundance of mental and physical health implications. Moreover, alcohol addiction is extremely hard to overcome, with only one in three alcoholics who try to get sober ever reaching sobriety. However, alcohol addiction seems to be insufficiently discussed when we talk about mental health and being a college student. Increasing awareness of this disease, especially educating students on the first symptoms of alcoholism, can help staunch a potentially life-damaging addiction.
In the United States, the drinking age is 21, which encourages universities to preach abstinence in regard to discourse on alcohol, despite how prevalent and available it is to underage drinkers. Furthermore, because so many college students spend four years partying and come out unscathed, they develop an attitude of invincibility, or a denial of the possibility of it happening to them. However, alcoholism does not discriminate. Knowing the warning signs, knowing if there is a genetic component that makes you more vulnerable to alcohol dependency and having an overall awareness of how alcoholism affects the body and mind is imperative. Not only should universities do more to increase this awareness, but students who come into college knowing they want to partake in drinking should be aware of the potential repercussions and have the resources and knowledge to help them avoid any kind of dependency.
Theodora Catrina is a sophomore majoring in mathematics.