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Problem Drinking in College: What You Need to Know

The college years are notorious as a time when students have easy access to alcohol and plenty of peer pressure to encourage them to experiment with it. If your son is in college or is getting ready to start college soon, what should you know about the dangers of problem drinking in this formative period?

Unique Risks and Stress Factors

College is many people’s first taste of independence. They have the freedom to set their class schedule and come and go as they please. You may have to get accustomed to the reality that you’ll have little to no idea of what your son is doing each day, especially if he has moved out of your house while he pursues his studies. The novelty of a lack of parental supervision is one reason many college students choose to try alcohol and drugs. The culture at specific colleges also plays a significant role. Students attending schools with robust Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types of schools. Popular culture often normalizes drinking and drug use in college for the sake of comedy, from movies like Animal House all the way to more recent films like 22 Jump Street. As a result, students often enter college expecting it to be like the movies, looking forward to attending frat parties or spring break where the alcohol flows freely. This mindset is a dangerous one to have if it leads to a habit of problem drinking. Some students might also start drinking to escape the stress of college life. Many college students find they must balance a full class load with a part- or full-time job, which puts a lot of pressure on their shoulders. If they’re responsible for paying their tuition or any other living expenses, that is another source of worry. They might start having a beer or two at night to help them relax, only to have that habit spiral out of control before they realize it.

The Consequences of Problem Drinking in College

A student who develops an alcohol misuse disorder during the college years is more likely to experience problems such as the following.

  • Poor academic performance: Students who routinely stay up late partying and go to bed drunk might wake up too hungover to take good notes in class, or might decide to skip class altogether. Drinking might also interfere with a college student’s ability to get good grades on exams and assignments. Their grades may slip to the extent that they are in danger of getting expelled from school.
  • Reckless behavior: Because drinking lowers inhibitions, a drunk person’s personality may be completely different than it is when they are sober. He might decide to do something dangerous like driving, vandalizing property or engaging in unsafe sex. Eventually, a history of irresponsible actions could lead to an arrest.
  • Health problems: The myriad of physical, mental and emotional effects of alcohol abuse can take years to unfold, but include problems like organ and tissue damage, high blood pressure, depression, obesity and even some forms of cancer. Someone who develops a habit of problem drinking in college might not meet all the criteria for an alcohol use disorder at the time, but can develop full-fledged alcoholism later in life. That’s why early intervention is essential.

Where to Find Help for Your College-Aged Son

If you’re concerned that your child might be engaging in problem drinking in college, you need to know where you can turn. Spearhead Lodge provides substance abuse treatment specifically for young men in their teens and early 20s. We understand the unique stresses and challenges facing younger clients, and we have tailored our program exclusively to meeting those needs. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your son make a full recovery from alcohol abuse.