Binge Drinking in College

Meta description – While some may see it as a rite of passage, binge drinking in college poses serious health risks to students, in the short-term and for years to come. For many young people, their time spent in college becomes a training ground for alcohol abuse and addiction.

College marks the first major life transition in many student’s lives. More responsibility, high expectations, and academic pressure require young people to develop a new mindset than the one they had living at home with their parents. Nowadays, the party scene is a big part of college life with drinking being a rite of passage in this bold new world. All of these life changes contribute to the high rates of binge drinking in college we see today.

As harmless as it may seem to those who participate, binge drinking takes a tremendous toll on the intellectual, physical and social lives of students. The harmful effects of alcohol multiply ten-fold within a college environment. When left unchecked, alcohol abuse behaviors learned in college can follow students long into their adult years.

Causes of Binge Drinking in College

New Freedoms

Most new students already have some experience with alcohol by the time they enter college. Certain aspects of college life provide more than a few opportunities to drink more than they did before. Perhaps the biggest change students encounter right away is the new freedoms they have.

Rather than have class schedules laid out, students must plan out their class schedule, study time and extracurricular activities themselves. Many college campuses also do a poor job of enforcing underage drinking laws, so violators can just blend in with the crowd and go unnoticed. This coupled with limited interactions with parents and adults, in general, leaves the door wide open for widespread drinking to prevail.

Sports and College Pride

There’s no lack of team spirit on many college campuses. Pep rallies, pre-game events and tailgating all provide opportunities for drinking. Add to this the post-game parties and it’s easy to see how drinking can become an all-day event.

A Need to Fit In

Not unlike what happens in the bar scene and social get-togethers among adults, alcohol is an all-purpose ice-breaker when it comes to socializing and meeting new people. The same thing can happen to a new student on a college campus who doesn’t know anyone. Alcohol quickly becomes a bridge to making friends and fitting in.

Sororities and Fraternities

Schools with strong Greek systems take pride in their sorority and fraternity groups. While sororities and fraternities may strive to promote camaraderie among their members, drinking often holds a prominent place within the culture of many of these groups. For students who entered college with established drinking patterns, being exposed to a group that condones heavy drinking and expects its members to indulge makes for an easy pathway to binge drinking.

Consequences of Binge Drinking in College

  • An estimated 20 percent of college students struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder
  • 1 in 4 college students have academic problems due to drinking, including skipping class, falling behind in their studies and overall poor academic performance
  • Rates of binge drinking are higher among college students than their non-college peers
  • Every year, an estimated 97,000 students report experiencing sexual assault or rape where alcohol was involved
  • Nearly 2,000 students die from alcohol-related injuries and car accidents each year

Short and Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol’s effects target the body’s central nervous system, which includes the processes that regulate breathing and heart rate. When high-blood alcohol levels persist for hours, you start to experience the effects of alcohol poisoning. Not surprisingly, binge drinking in college sends thousands of students to the emergency room each year.

As with any type of poisoning, medical care should be sought at the first sign of alcohol poisoning. Signs to watch for include:

  • Confusion
  • Grey complexion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Blackouts
  • Unresponsive, comatose-like behavior


After four years of binge drinking in college, it’s not uncommon for students to continue abusing alcohol well into their adult years. By this point, students have learned to use alcohol as a way to cope with daily pressures even though they’re not aware of it at the time. Also, all the dangers of alcohol abuse and alcoholism come into play when bingeing becomes a regular practice, some of which include:

  • Persistent cravings for alcohol
  • Increasing tolerance levels, which leads to drinking more and drinking more often
  • Ongoing declines in focus and concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Broken relationships
  • Problems with the law, such as DUIs
  • Depression disorders
  • Not being able to make it through the day without alcohol
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Declining health

As addiction takes hold, it becomes harder to see the damaging effects of alcohol in your life. This is how addiction works. Alcohol rehab centers specialize in helping individuals overcome the effects of alcoholism and develop healthy ways of coping with daily life. Taking action sooner rather than later offers the best chance of seeing addiction for what it is and breaking its hold on your life.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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