The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) used self-reporting surveys to compare drinking…
Is Binge Drinking in College Innocent Fun?
What would college be without the experience of heartily partying? Drinking to excess in college is almost as much a rite of passage as learning to drive or cramming for finals. College kids routinely participate in drinking games, keg parties and reckless experimentation. For many students, it’s the first chance they have had to let loose with no parental supervision.
While not every college student participates in drinking to excess, there is no doubt that a whole lot do. Driven by curiosity, school stresses and peer pressure, binge drinking can quickly and easily become a habit.
Is binge drinking among college-age people innocent fun, or is it a sign that there could be a much bigger problem brewing? What are the possible consequences of indulging in one too many drinks or showing up at one too many parties? If you or a loved one is involved in the college party scene, how do you know when drinking is just fun and relaxing or when it’s turned into a dangerous habit?
What Is Binge Drinking?
The term binge drinking refers to heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. The generally accepted description of binge drinking is five or more drinks in a row by men, or four or more drinks in a row by women at least once in the last two weeks. College students who are active in the party scene easily fit into this category.
Drinking a lot all at once is an easy habit to get into in college. Many college social functions revolve around alcohol, and this includes everything from athletic competitions to pledging fraternities or sororities to celebrating the end of finals or midterms. You may feel a great deal of peer pressure to participate, and in an unfamiliar, stressful environment, alcohol can lower your inhibitions and help you feel like you fit in.
Hidden Dangers of Binge Drinking
Since so many of your peers are participating in binge drinking, it probably feels like a perfectly normal thing to do. You may be tempted to play drinking games or to see how much alcohol you can handle, or even how well you can function in the morning after a night of extreme partying.
The problem is that for many college students, there are unexpected consequences that come with binge drinking. Under the influence of alcohol, you may engage in reckless or risky behavior that you wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t been partying. Unprotected sex while drunk can lead to shame, regret, unwanted pregnancy and even contracting sexually transmitted diseases. When you’re under the influence of alcohol, serious or even deadly accidents can occur, such as car accidents, burns, drownings and falls.
Students who are binge drinking in college may get into fights or become violent. Some commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances, and end up facing expulsion or jail time. In rare cases, drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be life-threatening.
How to Know When Binge Drinking Has Become a Problem
Participating in binge drinking is asking for trouble. College should be a time full of memorable, happy times, and it’s important to be cautious when it comes to guzzling alcohol. How do you know where the line is drawn between having a blast partying and developing a big problem? There are several warning signs that binge drinking isn’t innocent fun.
You may go to a party intending to have only one or two drinks and end up getting obliterated. You may wake up in the morning and realize you have no idea what happened the night before. You may notice that more and more often you find you’d rather go out drinking than go to class. Other people may begin making comments that you need to put a lid on your drinking.
When you become dependent on alcohol to alter your moods and to function with day to day living, it’s definitely time to pay attention. When drinking is interfering with work, school or important personal relationships, and when you continue drinking even though you are having legal problems or other serious consequences, you could be developing an addiction to alcohol.
If you find that when you start drinking you can’t stop, that’s another warning sign that you could be developing a serious problem with alcohol. If you’re having trouble controlling your drinking, your drinking could be out of control.
Drinking too much on a regular basis is a warning sign, but you don’t have to participate in binge drinking frequently to end up with permanent consequences. A single drunken episode can alter your life forever. For that reason, it’s always better to drink in moderation rather than to excess.
By Valerie Dansereau