Sobering Statistics on College Drinking

The Potential Impact of Underage Drinking on Your Freshman

Young people making a toast with beer
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Alcohol use is a continuing problem on most college campuses, where nearly 73% of the students drink at least occasionally, according to the Core Institute, the United States' largest national statistics database on alcohol and drug use by college students. And according to the federal Centers for Disease Control figures for 2010, one in four young adults, ages 18-34, binge drink, i.e., drink four or more alcoholic beverages in the span of a few hours.

Schools are striking back by instituting alcohol awareness programs, some requiring completion of an online course before students even arrive on campus. But without parental buy-in, this college drinking awareness efforts are fighting a losing battle. Statistically, kids who binge drink - down five or more drinks in a single sitting - in high school bring those same problems to college.

It's high time that parents sat their older teens down and talked frankly about family expectations regarding alcohol, drugs, and similar issues. Talk, too, about how to take care of friends who have imbibed. And talk about the statistics on college drinking:

  • Drinks Per Week: The average male freshman, according to the Core Institute, which surveyed 33,379 undergrads on 53 U.S. campuses in 2005, consumes 7.39 drinks – a bottle of beer, glass of wine, shot or mixed drink – per week, while the average female has 3.86. That’s considered heartening news in some quarters because it implies that risky binge drinking is declining. But college administrators aren’t so heartened, and that's because of the...
  • Academic Impact: 31% of college students missed a class due to substance abuse, according to the Core statistics, and 22% tanked an exam or essay. And some 159,000 of the nation’s current freshmen will drop out of school because of alcohol or drug use.
  • Booze and Sex: Alcohol and sex make for a particularly unhealthy cocktail. Alcohol has been involved in 90% of all campus rapes – either therapist and/or the victim were under the influence. And it's heavily involved in every other kind of hook up as well. Some 70% of college kids say they had unplanned sex - sex they wouldn't otherwise have had - while under the influence, and 20% didn’t take precautions, even though they practice safe sex when sober.
  • The toll on Relationships: Too many teens think booze helps their social lives, but alcohol use can take a toll on relationships with friends and roommates. If your teen thinks he may have a problem or ever says a friend implied it, urge him to take a self-assessment quiz, such as the simple one offered online by UC Berkeley's Tang Health Center. If a friend's alcohol use is impacting your child, he may find this article on "How to Help a Friend" helpful.