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How Binge Drinking in College Can Affect Your Post-Grad Life

How Binge Drinking in College Can Affect Your Post-Grad Life

Excessive drinking in college has become so much more than a stereotype or trope. Many students see it as a ritual or “right of passage” that ends up being a crucial part of the collegiate experience.

While having a few casual drinks at a bar or party is usually fine, it’s not uncommon for some students to partake in binge drinking. According to the CDC, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that causes a person’s blood-alcohol concentration to reach 0.08 g/dl or above. That usually equates to consuming 4-5 drinks in two hours.

Most people understand the immediate effects of drinking too much. It can lead to cognitive impairment, sickness, and can lead to serious health and safety risks – especially in college. But, it’s also important to understand the potential long-term effects of binge drinking.

Your habits and choices now can harm your future. While having fun and enjoying your college experience is important, understanding the potential consequences of binge drinking might make you think twice about your actions at the next party.

Not totally convinced? Let’s take a look at how binge drinking in college can affect your life long after graduation.

An Increased Risk of Health Problems

There’s no denying the immediate risks of binge drinking. You could put your health and well-being in jeopardy simply by being with the wrong people, getting behind the wheel of a car, or ignoring potential medical needs.

But, when binge drinking becomes a habit, there are long-term health risks that could follow you well after you graduate. Some of the biggest risks include:

  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • A suppressed immune system
  • Stroke
  • Malnutrition

If you already have certain health conditions, drinking too much can exacerbate them. For example, acid reflux and GERD can be made worse with alcohol consumption. Long-term drinking can lead to more serious digestive issues that may worsen with age.

People who drink heavily are also at a greater risk of developing mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon for college students to deal with mental health issues without the effects of drinking. Over the last year, 30% of students reported feeling depressed.  While binge drinking might feel like a “quick fix” to ease that depression, it often ends up making things worse, leading to long-term problems that may eventually require professional help.

Long-Term Consequences

In addition to an increased risk of long-term health issues, consider how your drinking habits could impact your future based on the choices you make.

Drinking impairs your judgment. When you’re surrounded by others who are also drinking too much, it’s hard to find a “voice of reason” that keeps you from doing things you otherwise wouldn’t. That could include things like:

  • Getting behind the wheel of a car
  • Engaging in sexual activity
  • Partaking in risky behaviors
  • Trying other drugs

Each year, 696,000 college students are assaulted by another student under the influence of alcohol. Many of those assaults are physically violent, while just under 100,000 students report some type of sexual assault. Not only can that cause serious problems in the moment, but depending on the severity of the assault, it could lead to long-term physical and/or mental health issues that could negatively impact your life for years.

How to Stop Binge Drinking in College

The more you know about the short-and-long-term effects of binge drinking, the more motivated you should be to get it under control. First, evaluate your existing relationship with alcohol. Is your drinking causing problems with your family members, friends, or your studies? Have you tried to stop drinking so much but haven’t been able to do so? Has drinking become a priority in your life?

The answers to those questions can give you a better idea as to whether your drinking pattern has become a problem. Recognizing that is often the first step in getting things under control.

Thankfully, if you know you need to stop drinking, you don’t have to do it on your own. Most campuses across the country have resources and support services that can educate you and help to hold you accountable. These services can also help you to form a strategy to stop drinking while offering you consistent support along the way.

You might also need to change your environment or your circle of friends. That’s not always easy to do in college, but when your well-being depends on it, it could be a necessary sacrifice. Sometimes, removing yourself from the toxic situation is the best course of action.

Finally, don’t be afraid to lean on family members or friends for help. The people who care about you don’t want to see you struggling with the effects of binge drinking. By reaching out now and getting a handle on your habits, you can reduce the risk of damaging effects now, and in the future. While binge drinking and college might always be linked together, it doesn’t mean you have to fall into the stereotype. Educate yourself, take the right steps to stop drinking, and you’ll have more control over a positive future.

SEE ALSO: Balancing College Life and Mental Health

Study Finds Where You Drink as Important as How Much

A new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that when drinking, where you do it matters as much as the quantity, when it comes to sexual assault and aggressive behavior. This provides a new dimension to those who have traditionally believed binge-drinking to be a major factor when it comes to dangerous scenarios for sexual assault.

The study followed the partying and hook-up behaviors of more than 1,000 straight men over four semesters, from the beginning of the freshman year. It found that men’s attendance at “drinking venues,” i.e. bars and parties, was a better predictor of their sexual aggression than their binge-drinking habits or attitudes about sex.

To some, however, this might seem a little obvious.

“I think if you survey college women, [they] know that when you go to a frat house, you hopefully [think to yourself], Okay, I need to be on edge. This is a danger zone,” says Rory Newlands, a graduate student at the University of Nevada at Reno and the lead author of a critical review of some sexual-violence-prevention programs on college campuses.

“If you’re at home drinking alone, you’re probably not going to perpetrate against someone,” she says. “But [it’s different if] you’re going to this environment where you’re already primed to be thinking, like, This is a hookup hot spot, and I’m drinking, so I’m going to have sex.”

For universities that are grappling with what they can do to prevent sexual assault on campus, this new research suggests that focusing on certain spaces could have an impact.

This was certainly the thought behind recent protests at Swarthmore College last week, when a group of students calling themselves the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence seized Phi Kappa Psi’s fraternity house. The move to seize the frat house came after some internal document from Phi Kappa Psi were leaked to campus news outlets, which revealed (among other things) that a room of the house was referred to as the “rape attic.”

According to the recent study, hot spots, such as Swarthmore’s Phi Kappa Psi’s “rape attic” are an unfortunately common phenomenon.

See also: Is Your Drinking Dangerous?

Not all Fun and Games: Drinking and Drug Abuse in College

Heavy drinking may be sign of bigger problem

Is Your Drinking Dangerous?

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence endorses Alcohol Awareness Month each April. They encourage the public to speak out about the dangers of alcohol abuse, alcoholism and recovery.

With binge drinking being so common among students due to high-stress levels, the dangers of alcohol abuse can be destructive to college success.

Dangers of binge drinking

Among students, binge drinking can be a common, exhilarating activity. Binge drinking involves consuming more than 4 drinks for women or 5 drinks for men within two hours. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) found that nearly 60 percent of students ages 18-22 drink, and two-thirds of this group report engaging in binge drinking.

Although binge drinking may seem normal in college, it poses serious adverse risks. The same study found that nearly 1,825 students ages 18-24 die from alcohol-related injuries and 97,000 students are a victim of sexual assault or rape while alcohol is involved each year. Perhaps the most shocking finding from this study is that nearly 20 percent of students meet the basis for having an alcohol use disorder.

Stress and drinking

Pressure from classes can place a lot of stress on students. These stress levels can increase significantly during exams, as students are hastily packing in as much studying as possible. Stress can also be related to pressures from family, peers and relationships. When trying to balance all of these factors with school, stress can become plentiful. Since alcohol is a depressant, many find it effective in relieving stress.

In order to manage stress in a healthy way, students should be aware of the resources available to them. Many schools have a mental health counselor who can provide guidance on how to effectively manage stress. Other ways that can help reduce stress include exercise, yoga, meditation, time management and support groups.

Evaluate your relationship with alcohol

An important part of Alcohol Awareness Month is Alcohol Free Weekend from April 5-7. People are invited to participate in 72 hours without alcohol. If you experience any discomfort or difficulty abstaining during these hours, you may have a problem with alcohol.

Differentiating between heavy drinking and alcoholism may prove difficult, but you can evaluate your relationship with alcohol by asking these questions:

  • Has drinking caused problems with your family, friends, or studies?
  • Have you continued to drink even when you shouldn’t?
  • Have you tried to quit, or control the amount you drink, but were unable to?
  • Do you experience cravings, or strong desires, to drink?
  • Have you found yourself consuming increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the effects you desire?
  • Have you placed drinking as a priority over your other obligations?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when not drinking?

If you answer yes to several or all of these questions, it is an indication that your alcohol use is unhealthy, and you may have an alcohol use disorder. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, it is essential to get the help you need before it causes detrimental effects on your health, education, and future career.

If you have received a DUI, despite it coming with a number of consequences, it is not aimed to end your driving privileges. It is a long road, but you can regain your license if you manage to follow the various requirements your state has instructed.

SEE ALSO: Expert Tips on How to Breakup with Your Phone