The first few weeks of freshman year are a crucial time. For most young adults, this is the first time they’ve lived away from home, free from the rules imposed by their parents. They’re enjoying their independence, adjusting to the demands of college courses, and establishing friendships that will define their social experiences for the next four years. Many college students are also exploring their relationships with alcohol.
According to a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost 60 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 drank alcohol in the past month. Nearly two out of three of these students admitted to binge drinking during the same timeframe. College drinking can have a number of negative consequences, including academic problems, unsafe sex, driving under the influence, and health issues.
For adults over the age of 21, having an occasional drink can be a harmless way to unwind and socialize with friends. Unfortunately, about 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. College is a time for having fun and trying new things, but binge drinking doesn’t have to be one of them. Here are six tips to help avoid alcohol abuse in college:
1. Offer to be the designated driver
Parties can be full of social pressure to drink. One way to say “No” is to be the designated driver. The benefits are twofold – you won’t drink to excess and your friends will get home safely.
2. Track the drinks you consume
If you’re 21 and want to drink responsibly, track the number of drinks you have in given period of time. Binge drinking is considered five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in about two hours.
3. Find the right group of friends
If you’re constantly being pressured to drink at parties, you might be hanging out with the wrong crowd. Good friends will understand and support your decision not to drink.
4. Discover ways to have fun without alcohol
Having a good time isn’t limited to binge drinking every night. Explore the city around your campus, pick up a new sport, or join a club on campus. Bonus: you’ll meet like-minded people who won’t mind that you don’t drink.
5. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water
Adults over 21 can avoid binge drinking by alternating between an alcoholic beverage and a glass of water. Since you can only have one drink in your hand at once, the one-for-one method can significantly reduce your alcohol consumption.
6. Bring at least one sober friend with you to social events
It can feel isolating when you’re the only sober person at a college party. Having just one sober friend to chat and dance with can make socializing around people who are drinking a lot more fun.
Do you struggle with binge drinking? Help is available.
Drinking is common among college students due to the widespread availability of alcohol, unstructured free time, and limited interaction with parents. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to tell when casual alcohol use becomes abusive – especially when it seems like everyone around you is doing it. If you have missed classes, failed an exam, or been hospitalized because of college drinking, you may have an alcohol abuse disorder. The good news is that help is available.
The Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research in La Jolla offers treatment research options for those who struggle with alcohol abuse or binge drinking, including college students. Those who meet the entrance requirements will receive individual counseling, medication, and compensation for participation in the study. To find out if you are eligible for free alcohol treatment, please call us at (858) 784-7867 or fill out the contact form on our website.