College isn’t just eating pizza in dorm rooms, studying on the quad, and writing reports. Thanks to movies like Old School, Van Wilder, and Animal House, the word “college” is pretty much synonymous with “drinking.” But, college drinking extends past the occasional beer pong match and toga party.
According to SAMHSA’s 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 58% of full-time college students drank alcohol in the past month. And with about 20% of college students meeting the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, parties and drinking can be a dangerous hobby for undergrads, especially for freshmen.
College Freshmen Particularly At-Risk
Starting college is an exciting time for freshmen, but the stress of new environments, schedules, and a lack of friends to watch out for them puts them particularly at risk for dangerous drinking behaviors. As college freshmen exercise their newfound freedom and oftentimes little knowledge of the dangers of alcohol, they are susceptible to binge drinking a deadly amount, as is the case with a Texas Tech freshman who died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes.
In fact, alcohol is often a factor in freshman deaths, assaults, and injuries. Sometimes referred to as the “red zone,” the first two months are some of the most hazardous weeks for first-year students. But some colleges are beginning to recognize this dangerous adjustment period and have created awareness and training programs to educate students on safety precautions—many of which are required before classes begin.
College Binge Drinking Statistics
Early college drinking behaviors can have long-term impacts. Freshmen who develop unhealthy relationships with alcohol could put themselves at risk for their undergraduate career. Not only do underage drinkers account for more than 10% of the country’s alcohol consumption, but researchers estimate that 1,825 college students aged 18–24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries and car crashes.
Additionally, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that over 150,000 college students will develop an alcohol-related health problem, and about 1.5% try to commit suicide due to drinking or drug use.
Over-consumption is still prevalent across campuses everywhere and college students still have some of the highest levels of binge drinking compared to other age groups. But college binge drinking rates are slowly declining. In fact, binge drinking rates have dropped steadily since 1991, and have even decreased by 21% over the past decade. So, while films featuring the stereotypical beer-guzzling frat boy probably won’t disappear anytime soon, binge drinking may someday become a thing of the past for college co-eds.