Alcohol consumption in college has become a ritual that most students see as a fundamental part of their education experience. Many students come to college with the intentions of spending a majority of their weekends in fraternity houses or at the bars, but at what point is college-level drinking considered too excessive?
Many alcohol problems in college students are related to binge drinking, which means that students are consuming large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time with the intentions of “blacking out.”
Drinking can have negative consequences on the lives of college students in terms of their academics, their ability to make conscious decisions and their health.
“Alcohol consumption becomes an issue when it is a risk to the health and safety of a student — impacting their school work, outside jobs, relationships and day-to-day functioning,” said psychologist Kristin Shelesky, West Chester University’s Drug and Alcohol Counselor.
College-level drinking doesn’t mix particularly well with waking up early in the morning, so going to class can be a struggle for many students.
“After a night of drinking I rarely make it to class the next morning. I usually spend the entire day lying in bed with a pounding headache, and the only time I make it out of bed is when I have to run to the bathroom,” said West Chester University student Amanda Smith*.
Many college students face academic consequences from drinking such as missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall.
Although most students choose to not go to class when they are suffering from a hangover, those who do may be physically present, but not intellectually present, causing them to not pay attention and hamper their ability to fully grasp the information.
Students are also finding that alcohol consumption interferes with their job when they are not showing up on time, or at all, to work.
“After a night of drinking, I set my alarm to wake up for work the next morning, but I end up sleeping right through it,” said student Matthew Moore.
Natalie Drew, another WCU student, said, “Sometimes, I get so drunk that I set my alarm for 9:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. when I have a 10:00 a.m. shift, and I end up stumbling into work three hours late.”
Drinking can also have a negative impact on students’ relationships with friends and loved ones.
Drinking too much can cause a person to become moody, defensive, abusive or aggressive, resulting in a change in personality.
As time goes on, relationships with family, friends and peers can become strained and distant due to constant disputes.
John O’Brien, another student at WCU, explained how his relationship with his girlfriend was impacted due to binge drinking.
“I couldn’t control myself when it came to drinking. I would see my girlfriend talking to another guy and immediately become jealous. It got so bad that one time at the bar, I ended up attacking an innocent gentleman just for talking to my girlfriend,” said O’Brien. “I ended up with glass from a broken beer bottle in my face and blood was everywhere. We both got kicked out of the bar, and my girlfriend never spoke to me again,” said O’Brien.
Why do students drink so much to the point that they lose self-control? Is it fun to “black out” and wake up the next morning trying to fill in the missing pieces from the night before?
“Students who are more socially anxious feel that drinking helps them loosen up and break out of their shell, but more often than not they are impacted by regrettable behaviors and feel more down on themselves in the long run,” said Dr. Shelesky.
Most college students are going to consume alcohol throughout their years at school; however, being aware of when drinking becomes too much is extremely crucial.
“If there’s a pattern that someone needs to be drinking or finds themselves drunk more often than not, it is important to ask why, and figure out what is leading the student to do that. Is the student’s goal being achieved by drinking too much?” said Dr. Shelesky.
Each student has their own reasoning as to why they drink, whether it is to break out of their shell, celebrate the weekend or just because they like the feeling drinking gives them. But how do they know when it’s too much?
Students can notice signs of abusing alcohol when they are missing class or work, having problems in their relationships or having trouble with day-to-day functions.
Lessened alcohol consumption can positively impact the life and success of college students. It is important that students remain conscious of the negative repercussions associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
The successful college student is one who can maintain a healthy balance of alcohol usage and responsibility.
*The names of students have been changed for confidentiality.
Brianna Preziosi is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. They can be reached at BP784122@wcupa.edu