Opinion: Students should be wary of the drinking culture in college

One of my best friends almost died on my couch last year.

He refused to go to the hospital because he had already racked up an insurmountable number of bills from a few months prior when his excessive drinking put him into a coma.

At 27 years-old, he was an alcoholic whose organs were shutting down, yet he was still too stubborn to admit he needed help.

It wasn’t until he was puking up a black liquid and felt so weak that he could barely stand that he finally allowed me to literally carry him to the Emergency Room.

This story may sound like a scare tactic or a rare occurrence, but every single drinker that I know has had numerous nights when they have drunk too much. Some have cried, some peed their pants, some passed out on a random lawn and some choked on their own vomit in the middle of the night. This is not a scary bedtime story, this is a haunting reality.

[Photo of people holding red Solo cups.]
Photo courtesy Michael Fousert

The truth is, we live in a society that normalizes and praises drinking culture, particularly among college-aged adults. We are actively perpetuating drug and alcohol abuse, which can lead to dire consequences.

According to the CDC, more than 95,000 people die from excessive alcohol use in the United States each year, and this is even more alarming as alcohol sales have soared nationwide this year, due to the pandemic.

In a study released by the RAND Corporation in September 2020, the frequency of alcohol consumption among adults from 2019 to 2020 increased by 14%, which was largely attributed to the coronavirus and quarantine.

The news release for this study also suggested that future research should examine “whether psychological and physical well-being are subsequently affected,” as an increase in alcohol use can lead to significant negative health consequences.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) warns that “drinking too much – on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your health.” There are numerous negative effects this can have on the body — on the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system — and it is correlated to several types of cancer.

So, what exactly is “excessive drinking?” It is not as much as one may assume. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines excessive as eight or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks a week for men. Excessive drinkers also follow more of a binge-like pattern, consuming four or more drinks at one time versus casually drinking throughout the week.

Where am I going with all of this?

Quite frankly, I am wary of the party culture that surrounds college universities and presses down upon students. Especially in light of the pandemic, I’m afraid that we are creating future generations of dependent adults who are learning to self-medicate rather than seeking help when they need it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that students shouldn’t drink. But I am urging them to take accountability for their lives; understand the implications and consequences of their actions, learn the difference between drinking casually and drinking to cope, and find a healthy balance when consuming alcohol.

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