How Binge Drinking in College Can Lead to Addiction
More and more college students across the world drink at parties. Little do they know how binge drinking in college could lead to serious addiction in the future. Find out how in this article.
Did you know that more than 1.2 million college students drink on a daily basis?
The main problem isn't that they're drinking - it's how much they consume. Many students engage in binge drinking in college, and it can lead to more serious alcohol-dependence and addiction in the future.
What is binge drinking to begin with? How can it lead a straight-A college student to alcoholism 5 or 10 years later in life?
Let's explore more together!
What is Binge Drinking?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking refers to a pattern of consuming alcohol that raises BAC levels (blood alcohol concentration) up to 0.08 g/dL (grams per deciliter) or more.
This more often than not equates to 4-5 drinks in 2 hours. Some binge drinkers consume eight drinks a week, and others can consume even more. Each time a binge drinker goes out, they end up drinking no less than four times in a few hours.
For many, binge drinking begins in college. It's part of the college culture where students tend to party hard during the weekends.
How is Binge Drinking Different from Alcoholism?
Keep in mind that a binge drinker is not always an alcoholic. There are distinct differences between the two. A person can engage in college binge drinking but not turn out alcoholic.
Here are two examples to showcase how this works:
Person A is a good, hardworking college student. He attends his classes, doesn't feel the need to drink every day, but when he does drink he'll drink a good six or seven glasses in a night.
By definition, he's a binge drinker but not an alcoholic since he doesn't depend on drinks to get by. He can go long stretches of time without drinking. He only happens to drink a lot when he does decide to go out for fun.
Person B is the exact opposite. He can only drink one to two bottles of beer a night, never getting drunk but still enough to feel the buzz. Person B, however, always feels like he can't do anything until he has a bottle in his hand.
This makes Person B an alcoholic. He depends on the substance to move forward, but at the same time, it ruins his life and decisions. Without alcohol intervention, he could suffer from serious physical and psychological effects.
Binge Drinking is Not Alcohol Addiction
Most binge drinkers engage in this activity for fun. They're at parties and want to socialize with the other people in the room. Alcohol-dependent people, on the other hand, simply need a drink to function. Their addiction exceeds any other intent.
You can be a binge drinker and not an alcohol addict. However, most alcohol addicts started from binge drinking. They got an extensive taste of alcohol, and now it's broken into their system, affecting their mind and body.
That said, it does lead to addiction over time. The gritty details get discussed below.
Why Do People Engage in Binge Drinking?
If binge drinking can lead to addiction, why do people do it?
A study conducted by the NIAAA shows that 2 out of every 5 college students engage in excessive drinking aka binge drinking. This includes students of all ages, including those who should be too young to consume or purchase alcohol.
Some of the most common reasons for binge drinking include:
- For fun
- Build confidence
- Showcase masculinity and dominance
- Forget problems and stress
- Peer pressure
- For notoriety
The majority of college students binge drink for fun. It's all about letting loose, having fun, and partying with friends and strangers. There's no deep emotional or psychological reason to drink other than to get together and enjoy the weekend.
Binge Drinking to Impress, Fit In, and Rebel
For others, however, binge drinking helps depress portions of the brain that control anxiety and fear. This calms them down and lets them feel more confident. This, in turn, helps them socialize with people they like or do insane stunts and other college activities.
Athletes and college students in fraternities, on the other hand, binge drink to showcase their dominance. Men want to showcase how many drinks they can handle. If they can drink more than the others, it's a sign of their power and masculinity.
Other students in college binge drink because of peer pressure. They could be at a party or a fraternity gathering, and their friends won't let them go without a few drinks. Sometimes, students feel like they have to binge drink because their friends do it.
Some will binge drink for notoriety. They want to rebel and break the rules or traditions they followed for years.
Binge Drinking in College and Party Culture
Parties are more common during college years than any other point in a person's life. College parties are so frequent that they're synonymous with the educational system. It's a given nowadays to party when studying in college.
This frequent partying creates opportunities for people to drink, even when they shouldn't.
One study shows 52% of teens admit to drinking alcohol despite not being old enough to purchase their own drinks. The study also stated that most people who start drinking early become alcohol-dependent in their adult life.
The scary bit is that this data relates to many high school and college students because they are within that age range.
For college students, it's all about the college party culture.
College is the breeding ground for parties, fraternities, athletic get-togethers, and weekend socializing. This is where men try to exert dominance over each other and try to impress women. This is where teenagers drink to de-stress after an exhausting week of studying and where people feel excessive peer pressure to give drinking a try.
Binge Drinking Makes Alcohol Abuse "Normal"
Binge drinking in college leads to binge drinking in adult life.
While some people can step away from this lifestyle, either due to intervention or lifestyle changes, many fall victim to thinking that drinking this excessively is normal. For those people, drinking this much alcohol in a day or week is what "real drinkers" and alcohol lovers do to have fun. They have no idea that this is no longer healthy and normal.
This is because binge drinking became a habit for these folks. They've done it so often in college that there's no excuse not to keep up with this style after they graduate. They may have to lessen their drinking due to work but many binge drink during the weekends or as soon as they get home.
With this kind of thinking, most binge drinkers assume that every time they drink, they have to drink this much. Drinking below that limit won't feel as good. They've already developed a liking to binge drinking.
As stated above, not all binge drinkers are alcoholics, but if they continue to drink like this into their professional, adult life, then they can become alcohol-dependent. This, in turn, makes them depend on alcohol and become truly addicted to the substance. Some can get away, but more often than not, people relapse back into addiction.
Binge Drinking in Colleges Can Lead to Depressive Drinking
One early sign of alcoholism is solitary drinking. This is because you're no longer drinking to socialize. You're not in a party, and you're not trying to get a little buzzed to build up courage and do something unexpected.
You're alone, in the room, drinking to suppress emotional and mental demons.
Excessive drinking in college can lead to this type of solitary situations. When all the partying is over, and there's no college schedule or friends to binge with, some people figure they still want to drink. Drinking on the weekends are now a routine, and they'll continue doing it even without their companions.
They'll drink one or two short drinks at first, hoping it'll help them recover from the thought of suddenly being alone. This becomes a habit, and soon enough alcoholics drink on a regular basis. Otherwise, they'll feel depressed because they're now drinking on their own and all their friends are gone.
Effects of Binge Drinking
Anything in excess is never good for you. This includes alcohol. People who binge their alcohol in one night often suffer immediate effects.
Others don't feel the detrimental effects until much later in life. If they don't fall victim to physical ailments, they could fall under the emotional and psychological stress that chases after them. It's often the latter than become addicted to alcohol in their adult life.
But what are the effects of binge drinking? To help you understand, here is a quick look at both the physical and psychological effects:
Excessive alcohol in the system affects the brain, interrupting neural pathways. This can lead to reduced motor function, slurred speech, and difficulty in thinking. Drinking also affects the heart and leads to conditions like high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, stroke, and arrhythmias.
Binge drinking directly affects a person's liver too. Too much alcohol can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, steatosis, cirrhosis, and fibrosis. Liver failure, which can cause sudden death, is also potential harm from binge drinking.
In relation to swelling, drinking too much alcohol at once can lead to pancreatitis.
Cancer is also a serious threat imposed by binge drinking. Some cancers that college students could encounter after too much drinking include cancer of the mouth, throat, breast, liver, and esophagus.
Drinking too much also weakens the immune system. Binge drinkers are more susceptible to pneumonia as well as tuberculosis.
Excessive alcohol intake also affects a person's mind and way of life. Too much drinking in one night can lead to sleeping disorders and changes in sleeping patterns, personality and mood shifts, and increased difficulty with coordination and shorter attention spans.
As stated above, people who engage in this type of drinking in college can later develop social anxiety and negative mood swings. They need to binge drink with others to feel normal, and when they can't, they'll drink alone, and this sinks them into a cycle of solitary drinking and depression. Without alcohol addiction treatment, some drinkers might move on to more dangerous substances and suicidal thoughts.
That last bit is the worst case scenario. People who grow addicted to alcohol suffer can suffer extreme cases of depression. This can lead to acting out on suicidal thoughts.
Danger to Others
Excessive drinking and the college party culture are direct culprits behind an increasing number of sexual assault cases in the country. You also have to consider how binge drinking can lead to vehicular accidents and brawls that lead to physical injuries.
Does It End With College?
For many people, binge drinking stops when they leave college. After they graduate, most people slow down with their alcohol consumption habits to focus on other things like work and building a family.
Many college students can carry normal lives, drinking only for social gatherings. Some people don't go back to binge drinking even when there is a party because they now understand they have other responsibilities to hold onto.
However, for some, this type of drinking habit becomes routine. These are the ones who later suffer from depression and will turn to alcohol to relieve them of this sadness and pain.
This holds especially true for people who suffered physical injury or sexual assault because of the party culture and drinking lifestyle in college. They may turn to the bottle to forget those experiences, making them dependent on substance abuse to move forward.
Don't Fall Victim to Binge Drinking!
If you or someone you know is a victim of binge drinking, whether due to college parties or from peer pressure and other factors, don't wait another minute to seek out help. Treating alcohol addiction early can help break the cycle and restore a person's normal lifestyle.
Not sure where to start? Uncertain if professional treatment is the right answer for you?
Visit us today, and we can help you deal with the demons of binge drinking and alcohol dependency. We can point you to the right rehabilitation center for your specific needs.