In most college campuses, there have been concerns that college students take part in binge drinking alcohol, which, in a damaging way, has led to severe consequences towards their peers. This type of behavior provokes various actions that can harm them both mentally and physically thus pushing the public health system to do what they can to reduce the problem. Because binge drinking widely influences young adults, it is considered a common drinking pattern in the U.S., where, for the past 30 days, over 90% of adults reported excessive binge drinking.
Around 25% of people ages 18-24 are known to part take in this behavior, and it is twice as common in men than in women.1 A great number of white non-Hispanics are considered to take part in binge drinking, whether they are physically or mentally unhealthy. This presents how binge drinking has a heavy impact on these specific groups of people, and that their actions, as a result, influences a greater amount of college students to binge drinking making it as a normal activity for individuals to take part in.
Certain risk factors that could have led to this issue were either due to peer pressure or due to a family history of binge drinkers. Peer pressure is very common when it comes to fitting in and socializing with certain groups of people, and because it affects almost anyone, it could influence many individuals to take part in dangerous actions or influence them to act in certain ways that can harm them and those around them.
Peer pressure is known to increase binge drinking in a greater amount of college students, especially since it makes binge drinking a very common activity that individuals are required to take part in so that they fit in with their social groups. There is a positive correlation between students who are susceptible to peer pressure and students that are making the decision to binge drink.
Students who are considered weak to peer influence are more likely to take part in binge drinking, and because of this belief they have, they consider that in order to fit in with other college students they must do what most of their classmates around them are doing: binge drinking. Most white non-Hispanic males self-reported believing that they are expected to binge drink, mostly underage due to the kind of groups they associate themselves with, especially when they involve themselves in Greek events. Since men are viewed by society as risk takers, they represent this image by showing how capable they are to handle binge drinking in order to impress those around them.
Because students are being peer pressured by others to part take in this action, they are creating an endless train of influence making binge drinking the norm. They are enforcing this belief that binge drinking is okay and that everyone else should do it. In addition, not only students became susceptible to binge drinking due to peer pressure, but it is also due to the kind of family they grew up in. When it comes to family, every individual member is likely to be a carrier of a specific trait. Since these traits are passed down to the next group of families, depending on the family member’s trait, it defines whether the child will or will not inherit a certain disorder or disease.
In other words, when it comes to family history, relatives, more specifically first degree relatives, are considered to be the ones to construct the inheritance patterns of their children thus determining whether they will develop certain health conditions or certain traits that can have a major impact on their well-being. More specifically, it has a huge impact on a college student’s life by the fact that it determines whether they will become susceptible to binge drinking. For instance, individuals with families that have a greater percentage of biological relatives that experienced or is vulnerable to alcohol intake are displayed to be put at risk of contributing to alcohol intake; while individuals who have relatives that less likely respond to alcohol intake are shown as less likely to contribute to alcohol intake.
This goes to show how the vulnerable tendencies families tend to develop – when it comes to performing risky behaviors – determines whether children are likely to develop that sort of trait. If there is a greater number of relatives that has this kind of vulnerability of making poor decisions, then their children are at greater risk of developing those kinds of personality traits/disorders, such as impulsive sensation-seeking or antisocial personality disorder, as they grow older. Having these certain traits developed would then have a huge impact on their decisions of whether they should engage in binge drinking.
As this problem continues to persist, it puts college students at risk for dealing with high levels of anxiety and depression that could result in negative outcomes affecting them both emotionally and socially. When it comes to the hard work of a college student, certain events can affect their mental health to an extent, depending on the circumstances. However, having a poor mental health can lead to many drastic measures that can affect the student’s social life, their academic reputation, and how communities or other people should view them.
Because a majority of college students are known to binge drink, they are putting their mental health at risk through experiencing the effects of withdrawal from alcohol consumption. Since withdrawals are believed to be cause by the insufficient intake of alcohol, various symptoms occurs, such as anxiety or symptoms similar to depressive disorders, and as these symptoms occur, it pressures the student to drink more in order to remove those irritable feelings.8 These restless and bleak feelings can affect their social and academic life leading to actions that could harm them in so many different ways, such as attempting to harm themselves or others. As a result, they are constantly going through this never-ending cycle of binge drinking in order to reduce the experience of depression.
In addition, not only can binge drinking affect the student’s mental state, but it could also involve students in motor vehicle accidents. When it comes to binge drinking and driving, having these two different activities performed at the same time would result in massive injuries. Motor vehicle incidents occurs frequently in the U.S. due to young reckless drivers, especially if those drivers are binge drinkers. Since drinking and driving is very common among young adults, they are putting themselves at risk of experiencing severe injuries or even death. These repeated actions increase the death rate among most drivers at around the age of 20, which influence the federal government to enforce laws to prevent drinking and driving.
Since binge drinkers have high demand for alcohol, it enforces them to drive recklessly as their concerns for risking their lives are lowered. In a study, there has been a greater amount of drinking drivers who reported higher demands in alcohol in a group of white men, with 77% of whites greater than non-whites, and with 58.2% of men greater than women.10 As these individuals continue to drive while they are drinking, they are bringing harm to not only themselves, but to those who are walking, driving, or even biking around them as they drive. All in all, binge drinking can affect a college student in many different ways, whether it is both mentally or physically.
There are various solutions that could prevent or reduce binge drinking in college students in order to avoid any severe health conditions that could impede in a student’s life. Such solutions include ways to help students cope with their drinking problem before it grows worse, while others include ways to encourage students to reduce their drinking problem through specific interventions, such as reducing their positive expectancy on alcohol or having programs keep track on how they should reduce their binge drinking problem.
One of the ways to prevent students from experiencing the negative outcomes of alcohol, such as high levels of stress and depressive symptoms, would be providing available therapeutic tools or programs. This will allow students to reduce their addiction so that it would be less likely that they will experience negative outcomes. ‘SMART Recovery’ is an evidence-based organization that ensures that trainers and facilitators are highly prepared to educate individuals how to cope with their addictive problems.
It takes place in Australia and its goals are to provide self-empowerment and guidance to individuals who are willing to recover from their addictions through therapeutic tools, such as cognitive behavior therapy. This program is known to be effective because of the group therapies they provide and the discussions they planned out in order to set a tone that these individuals are not the only ones experiencing this problem.
In addition, not only can therapeutic programs help students reduce their alcohol consumption in order to prevent impending outcomes of binge drinking, but with the advance of technology in this modern day, programs started using mobile apps or websites to help individuals keep track of their addictive problems. Keeping track of their addictive problems allows binge drinkers to understand how much they are misusing alcohol, giving them an understanding that the more they drink, the more likely they are putting themselves at risk of various consequences, such as drunk driving.
Since college students are known to drink on a whim during the weekends, programs sought to encourage college students to plan on reducing their alcohol consumption before heading out with a group of friends. SMS Programs are effective when it comes to reducing young adults’ alcohol consumption. This texting program aims to eliminate binge drinking during the weekends, and by doing that, individuals would receive messages on a Thursday asking what their weekend drinking plans are.
By doing this, on a Sunday, they can give feedback as to whether they succumb to drinking or not every weekend thus bringing awareness as to whether they are progressing in reducing their drinking addiction or not. Because this intervention targets young adults – especially since a majority of them are constantly using their cell phones -, this gives students an opportunity to be self-aware of their actions showing them whether they are capable of at the very least limiting the amount of alcohol intake. After committing to the drinking-limit goal, men are shown to have a higher reduction in alcohol consumption compared to women.
There are certain kinds of interventions that do not just focus on the reduction of alcohol consumption through therapy or through motivational interviewing, but they make efforts on discouraging alcohol consumption by decreasing a college student’s positive expectancy on alcohol. When it comes to different perspectives on alcohol, students are more likely to expect that all that alcohol brings pleasure and satisfaction towards the individual, ignoring the fact that it is a severe health inducing issue. The expectancy challenge intervention is known to be quite effective for a short amount of time as it aims to reduce alcohol consumption by applying experiential learning within a group setting.
By doing this, they are emphasizing more on how alcohol can have a negative impact on a college student as they place them in a setting where they will be experiencing those effects and outcomes with other groups of people. The study was shown to be effective in reducing the positive mindset individuals have on alcohol and the amount alcohol they consumed; however, this was only successful in the short since it has not been tested whether it the reduction would last in the long term. Nonetheless, this kind of intervention has been shown to be successful in discouraging students from drinking alcohol but only for a short amount of time.
When it comes to programs being made by a working community, they are the kind of interventions that are willing to protect their community from activities or certain situations that can have a great impact on the people’s health. Community-based preventions work its way to create different strategies in order to reduce the amount of alcohol being consumed by underaged individuals. Most of these prevention strategies involves formulating activities for groups of individuals by having specific cluster of members who believed that creating these prevention activities is the key to reducing alcohol consumption.
Most of the public are willing to do what they can to reduce alcohol consumption, however, there are also limits to their strategies. For instance, since community-based preventions targets specific coalitions to help individuals who are suffering from alcohol misuse, it may be difficult finding these kinds of people due to the kind of skills they must have in order to counsel and create prevention activities for these individuals. They need to have good communication skills, be willing to engage and show interest in wanting to support, and they must be culturally competent. Nonetheless, community-based prevention programs target its way to creating different sorts of projects to help individuals cope with their addiction problem.
Public Health in the Future
As binge drinking continues to become a problem among college students, the best way to prevent students from putting themselves in anymore danger is to properly educate them about the consequences and the health and social impacts binge drinking can bring. Properly educating students about the negative impacts of binge drinking alerts them about the dangers it could have on their health and on others. If students are not educated about the consequences of binge drinking, they would take binge drinking for granted and see it as a normal activity that college students would do. They would believe that all it brings is positive outcomes, such as making the individual more sociable or more contented.
In order to educate individuals about the harms and impacts binge drinking can have on a student’s life is to build more programs in schools or college campuses that promotes living a healthy life and discourages the harms of alcohol. School-based interventions are shown to be more effective when it comes to teaching students about the damage alcohol can bring to be, thus discouraging them from consuming alcohol.15 With this kind of education, they are teaching students about the consequences of drinking alcohol and warning them how it can put a student at risk of various factors that can impair their health and social life.
Because binge drinking is a common problem among college students, preventing this problem would be quite difficult if those who are already binge drinking are unwilling to admit that they have put themselves in a severe matter. The reason why students are continuing to binge drink is due to either peer pressure or the pleasure feelings it gives. Some other reasons are that they only see the positive outcomes their peers mention about binge drinking, such as making them feel more sociable or even satisfied with the kind of feelings it brings them.
Binge drinking is known to be a huge problem around college students, and as the situation continues, discouraging students from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can be quite difficult since some become quite vulnerable towards it. The only way to prevent this is to educate them right away and help them cope with their risky behaviors or educate them before they even start drinking. Not just educating them in what they are going through right now but educating younger students before it is too late. For instance, since middle school and high school students are still learning about what is accepted in society, they pick up what they view from their peers believing that what they are doing is correct when in reality it may not be the case.
Educating students before they come to believe that binge drinking is verified by other students as “normal” is a great way to prevent binge drinking from occurring. The young will be able to understand the dangers and how it can not only bring devastation and pain towards them but to those around them as well. Preventing binge drinking is quite difficult once the students are already binge drinking; however, preventing binge drinking or drinking alcohol from even occurring would decrease the likelihood that in the future students will not part take in this activity.
- Binge Drinking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm. Updated December 30, 2019. Accessed April 18, 2020.
- Wen XJ, Kanny D, Thompson WW, Okoro CA, Town M, Balluz LS. Binge drinking intensity and health-related quality of life among US adult binge drinkers. Prev Chronic Dis 2012; 9:110204.
- DiGuiseppi GT, Meisel MK, Balestrieri SG, et al. Resistance to peer influence moderates the relationship between perceived (but not actual) peer norms and binge drinking in a college student social network. Addict Behav. 2018; 80:47–52. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.12.020
- McBride NM, Barrett B, Moore KA, Schonfeld L. The role of positive alcohol expectancies in underage binge drinking among college students. J Am Coll Health. 2014;62(6):370–379. doi:10.1080/07448481.2014.907297
- Tarini BA, McInerney JD. Family history in primary care pediatrics. Pediatrics. 2013;132(Suppl 3): S203-S210. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-1032D
- Gowin JL, Sloan ME, Stangl BL, Vatsalya V, Ramchandani VA. Vulnerability for Alcohol Use Disorder and Rate of Alcohol Consumption. Am J Psychiatry. 2017;174(11):1094–1101. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16101180
- Krieger H, Young CM, Anthenien AM, Neighbors C. The Epidemiology of Binge Drinking Among College-Age Individuals in the United States. Alcohol Res. 2018;39(1):23–30.
- Saitz R. Introduction to alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(1):5‐12.
- Schneider MJ. Injuries Are Not Accidents. In: Introduction To Public Health Fifth Edition. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2016:264-267.
- Teeters, J.B., Pickover, A.M., Dennhardt, A.A., Martens, M.P. and Murphy, J.G. (2014), Elevated Alcohol Demand Is Associated with Driving After Drinking Among College Student Binge Drinkers. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 38: 2066-2072. doi:10.1111/acer.12448
- Kelly, P. J., Raftery, D., Deane, F. P., Baker, A. L., Hunt, D., and Shakeshaft, A. ( 2017) From both sides: Participant and facilitator perceptions of SMART Recovery groups. Drug and Alcohol Review, 36: 325– 332. doi: 10.1111/dar.12416.
- Suffoletto B, Merrill JE, Chung T, Kristan J, Vanek M, Clark DB. A text message program as a booster to in-person brief interventions for mandated college students to prevent weekend binge drinking. J Am Coll Health. 2016;64(6):481‐489. doi:10.1080/07448481.2016.1185107
- Scott-Sheldon LA, Terry DL, Carey KB, Garey L, Carey MP. Efficacy of expectancy challenge interventions to reduce college student drinking: a meta-analytic review. Psychol Addict Behav. 2012;26(3):393‐405. doi:10.1037/a0027565
- Fagan AA, Hawkins JD, Catalano RF. Engaging communities to prevent underage drinking. Alcohol Res Health. 2011;34(2):167‐174.
- Stigler MH, Neusel E, Perry CL. School-based programs to prevent and reduce alcohol use among youth. Alcohol Res Health. 2011;34(2):157‐162.