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The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Facts about College Drinking

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Drinking simply to get drunk is a common goal among college students. It’s become an accepted form of rebellion with consequences that can be tragic.

Some parents have convinced themselves that drinking during college is a rite of passage and look the other way. Others honestly believe that their kid would never drink before reaching the legal drinking age. In reality, though, national surveys indicate that as many as four out of five college students drink—and most traditional-age college students do not celebrate their 21st birthday until their junior or senior year.

Underage drinking is supposedly cause for expulsion on many college campuses, but the dirty deed is often reprimanded with just a slap on the wrist.

And even though most of them are well aware of the risks associated with alcohol, students continue to drink. The following facts and statistics on college drinking are divided into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The Good

  • Almost 30 percent of college students never drink and less than one percent drink daily. (Source: National Consumers League).
  • Many schools are home to student organizations that help spread the word about alcohol and the importance of using a designated driver. There are nearly 10,000 chapters of Students Against Drunk Driving with 350,000 actively participating members in the United States.
  • Annual alcohol consumption among college students declined by 12 percent; monthly alcohol consumption declined by 15 percent; and binge drinking among college students has declined by 16 percent from 1991 to 2011. (Source: Century Council.)
  • Colleges and universities are continually trying new tactics to educate students about the dangers of binge drinking.

The Bad

  • College students spend about $5.5 billion on alcohol annually. This is more than they spend on books, soda, coffee, juice and milk combined. (Source: Xavier University.)
  • Studies have found that the amount of time students spend drinking and partying can significantly decrease their GPA.
  • About 25 percent of college students report missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades as a result of their drinking. (Source: College Drinking Prevention.)
  • The U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have identified binge drinking as a major public health problem. (Source: College Drinking Prevention.)
  • Nearly 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol. Nearly 700,000 students in the same age group are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. (Source: College Drinking Prevention.)

The Ugly

  • Approximately 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex; over 100,000 students in the same age group report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex; and 97,000 students in the same age group are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. (Source: College Drinking Prevention.)
  • One in five college students have admitted to driving drunk and forty percent have admitted to riding with a drunk driver. Over the course of a year-long study, half of under-age college students said they drove after drinking and 20 percent said they drove while drunk. Among 20-year-olds, 43 percent said they had ridden with a drunk driver. (Source: HealthDay.)
  • Despite the numerous drinking education campaigns and advocacy groups, nearly 30 people die in crashes that involved a drunk driver every day. (Source: Centers for Disease Control.)

Things to Remember

Even though students are presented with statistics about drinking on a regular basis and even though friends or other students on campus may have been involved in drinking-related tragedies, it’s easy to brush off advice with a wave of the hand. After all, most of us are guilty of mistakenly assuming that bad things only happen to other people.

If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly. Pay attention to how much alcohol you’ve consumed; pay attention to your friends; and never drink and drive or accept a ride from someone who has been drinking. If you suspect that you or someone you’re with has alcohol poisoning, don’t wait around to see what happens. Call 911 for help.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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