Alcohol Effects on College Students

1 January 2017

Drug and alcohol use on college campuses is universal. Students articulate many reasons why they do it, but most neglect to consider both the long-term consequences of their actions. How wide-spread is drug and alcohol abuse? Teenagers today admit to extensive experimentation. According to one study, 90 percent of teens said that they have used alcohol, over 50 percent have used marijuana, 17 percent have used cocaine and 13 percent have used some form of hallucinogenic drug.

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Drug use has been classified as a major problem of students as early as in the fourth grade. Consequently, it is no surprise that substance use is prolific on college campuses, where many young adults are free from adult supervision for the first time in their lives. Some campuses through out the nation enforce the no alcohol rule while others just make sure you are legally consuming alcohol, which includes you being 21 years of age. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that has a depressant effect. It alters the way you think and act, that is why there is an age limit for it to be consumed.

Consuming alcohol can cause harmful consequences. Approximately 44 percent of college students are classified as heavy drinkers by the Harvard School of Public Health’s College Alcohol Study (CAS). According to these researchers, a male high-risk drinker has had five or more drinks in row at least once in the past two weeks; for women this measure is four or more drinks. Students who binge drink are more likely to damage property, have trouble with authorities, miss classes, have hangovers, and experience injuries than those who do not.

Students who drink heavily may have periods of memory loss, fatal injuries, engage in risky sexual behavior and may drop out of school due to academic failure. Young women who binge drink may put themselves at risk for sexual assault. Students living on campuses with higher proportions of binge drinkers experience more incidents of assault and unwanted sexual advances as a result of their peers’ drinking than do students residing on campuses with lower proportions of binge drinkers.

The consequences of heavy drinking on campus likewise affect non-drinking students. Property damage, vomiting in public, and litter are typically seen on campuses with heavy drinking populations. Sleep loss and disrupted study time on the part of students affected by others’ drinking are common. Similarly, failure and dropout rates due to student alcohol misuse can harm a college’s academic reputation, resulting in the loss of tuition and the ability to draw in high-caliber students. Research also demonstrates that alcohol is associated with aggressive behavior.

Alcohol-related sexual assault is a common occurrence on college campuses. When alcohol is involved, acts meeting the legal definition of rape seem to be more likely to happen. The marriage between alcohol consumption and college life has long been accepted as the norm within the confines of campus existence. However, the past decade has marked a period in time when violent outbreaks and campus riots are being attributed more and more to teen alcohol abuse, rendering it illegal on several major school grounds.

Even though such alcohol restrictions represent a potential answer to the problem, they are also causing even more riotous behavior inasmuch as students contend their rights are being violated by the limitation. It is clear that an overwhelming number of college students, many of whom are below the minimum drinking age, use alcohol and that the pattern of binge drinking is widespread among our college campuses. Binge drinking is of particular concern, not only because of its risks to the drinker but because of the problems it causes for those around the drinker. Research on the extent of the problem is detailed and persuasive.

In 2005, about 10. 8 million persons ages 12-20 (28. 2% of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Nearly 7. 2 million (18. 8%) were binge drinkers, and 2. 3 million (6. 0%) were heavy drinkers. More males than females ages 12-20 reported current alcohol use (28. 9% vs. 27. 5%), binge drinking (21. 3% vs. 16. 1%), and heavy drinking (7. 6% vs. 4. 3%). 48% of college drinkers report that ‘drinking to get drunk’ is an important reason for drinking. Almost 1 in 4 drink alcohol 10 or more times a month and 29% report being intoxicated 3 or more times per month.

One of the most common consequences of alcohol abuse by students is difficulty keeping up with academic responsibilities. The number of drinks a student consumes is directly associated with the student’s grades. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about a quarter of college students report experiencing difficulty with academics due to alcohol use, including earning low grades, doing poorly on tests and papers, missing class, and falling behind. Alcohol abuse undermines the academic mission of colleges and universities.

Heavy drinking and its effect on student performance can lead to a decline in the overall academic performance of an institution of higher education. Some feel pressured to use drugs or alcohol at social gatherings either because everyone else seems to be doing it, or because they believe it’s the cool thing to do. Others believe that drug or alcohol abuse offers a way to escape from school or work related stress, financial worries or relationship problems. Some feel that alcohol or drugs provide a way to compensate for feelings of shyness or low self-esteem.

Sometimes, these drugs act as a substitute for satisfying relationships, educational accomplishments or self-fulfillment. In addition to putting students at risk while on campus, the effects of alcohol abuse among college students can lead to long-term health and safety problems. Many reports over the years have indicated an association between alcohol consumption and infectious illness among chronic heavy drinkers; however, many patients in these studies have been chronically ill. Thus the question of whether alcohol can appreciably influence immunity in humans and affect the incidence of infectious diseases remains largely unanswered.

Students drinking 28 or more alcoholic drinks per week had significantly more health problems in the aggregate and those drinking more than 22 drinks per week had more upper respiratory infections compared to the other students including non drinkers. In conclusion, excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of respiratory infections but more moderate intake had little effect on the health risk. Alcoholism treatment programs are available but often are not accessible to a broad audience. The heaviest drinkers are the least likely to seek treatment, yet experience or are responsible for the most alcohol-related problems on campus.

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