Alcoholism in College Students
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“Alcohol abuse on college campuses has reached a point where it is far more destructive than most people and today realize and today threatens too many of our youth.” -Senator Joe Lieberman
Why do college students drink so much? This timeless fad has effected this generation in high percentages since the beginning of college education. Today in America it is estimated that approximately 29% of college students are regular alcohol abusers. Another recent study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism performed showed that college students suffered 1,400 deaths, 70,000 date rapes and assaults, and 500,000 injuries each year as a result of alcohol. (McDonald) Although binge drinking (5+ drinks in one sitting) is considered a normal part of the college experience many factors contribute to whether or not an individual is more prone to be an abuser.
Everyday, people are injured or killed in alcohol related accidents. These accidents have a direct effect on family and friends as well. Being one of few legal controlled substances in the U.S., alcohol is easily accessible for minors and is a large part of the teenage party culture. Because the abuse of alcohol often begins with adolescents and young adults, most research is based around them. Through these studies we learn what drives teens to drink and the consequences for their actions.
Researchers from the University of Alabama were able to show several reasons that provide incentives for adolescents to consume alcohol. Using a written survey, it was determined that the high school students being studied used alcohol to cope with problems in their lives, including “task-oriented”, “emotion Oriented”, and “avoidance coping” (Windle). The only major differences in results between sexes became obvious when it was shown by Windle that girls were more likely to use alcohol for avoidance and emotion-oriented coping than boys. Boys however, are more likely to have alcohol related problems and addictions (Windle). Another find throughout the researching process was that adolescents drank less often for social reasons than for the aforementioned coping reasons (Windle). A surprising result of this study was that students drank more frequently as a result of positive daily events than negative daily events (Windle). This suggests that while young people do in fact drink because they’re unhappy, they are more likely to drink because of something that has happened to them recently. Alcoholism is also thought to be passed genetically from parents to their children. By comparing males with a family history of alcoholism to males with a history without alcoholism, a relationship between genetics and alcoholism, and alcoholic children can be determined.
While quantity of consumption of children of alcoholics (COA’s) and non-COA’s were similar, COA’s were more than twice more likely to be diagnostically determined alcoholics than were the non-COA’s (Chavez). This test, which was administered by Nelba Chavez, of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that one can drink as much as an alcoholic, but not actually be an alcoholic themselves. This may contribute to a lack of social understanding of alcoholism. The idea of an alcoholic being someone who habitually abuses the use of alcohol is partially incorrect. The definition of an alcoholic is someone who is genetically pre-disposed to alcoholism or addiction (Chavez). Another approach to researching alcoholism was exercised by Sher, Hurlbut, Brazeal and Wood. In their studies they showed the differences between expectancies related to alcohol of COA’s and non-COA’s over a four-year period of time. What they found was that COA’s drank much more frequently to reduce tension, become more social, make activities more interesting and perform better than non-COA’s (Sher et. al.) At the same time there was a general decrease in drinking for these reasons from the time the study began to its completion four years later (Sher et. al.) This research displays important insight into the reasons for alcohol use, and could provide better treatment for alcoholic COA’s than is currently being provided. From this, we can deduce that parental alcoholism is not the only cause of increased alcohol abuse among adolescents. The additional life aspects of having an alcoholic parent are the other reasons adolescents drink. These aspects may include spending less time with one’s child and external expressions of alcoholism such as violence or depression, that may cause a child to deal as less as possible with the alcoholic parent.
Alcohol is a huge problem on most college campuses. Twenty-one may be the legal drinking age, but some how college minors find a way to get a hold of alcohol. College students have a tendency to drink more then the general population. A test administered by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse