Talking to college students about alcohol
While it can be said the practice of binge drinking in college hasn’t statistically changed much overall since the 1980’s, heavy drinking is a problem. Why? For a number of reasons, which, in an ever changing society creates more complex consequences.
So, what is problem drinking? And how can you talk about it with your “grown up” child in order to prevent college drinking? We review here, and provide you with a few talking points for addressing drinking in college. Then, we invite your questions or comments at the end.
What is moderate drinking?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as roughly 2 drinks per day, whereas bingeing is a pattern of drinking anywhere from 4 to 5 drinks in a two hour period. About half of college students who drink, also participate in binge drinking, and we’ve put together some important information to keep in mind when speaking with your college student.
6 Conversations You Should be Having With Your College Student
1. Drinking can cause potential health problems
It helps to start with the facts about college binge drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, unintentional injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, and burns, drowning); addiction and health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases as well as neurological damage and sexual dysfunction. While scare tactics can have contrary effects on young people, its important students are aware that binge drinking is a risky behavior- like walking high up on the edge of a steep incline. This isn’t necessarily something to minimize.
2. A high alcohol tolerance does not equal strength
In a report published in June 2014 in the NIAAA Spectrum, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explained the dangers associated with having a high alcohol threshold. Chief among these dangers is the inability to know when to quit; as tolerance increases, there will be decreased effect with the same amount which produced intoxication and the desire to drink more will increase. Having a high alcohol threshold is not so much an indicator of strength, more it puts an individual at a greater risk for potential health problems.
3. Heavy drinking activates addiction
Heavy drinking tends to lead to alcoholism and substance abuse issues, and the statistics are even higher for individuals with a genetic predisposition. Surveys have found that some heavy drinkers are able to cut back their drinking without treatment, but others who struggle with substance abuse patterns and negative coping skills will typically benefit from a treatment program.
4. Blackouts are extremely risky
Individuals who drink heavily will sometimes experience blackouts, described as episodes of amnesia that occur while they remain conscious and active. Young adults are disproportionately impacted by alcohol-related blackouts, and exposed to increased risks for a range of severe and potentially fatal health outcomes as a result. In many cases, someone in the midst of a blackout will appear as aware as their unaffected drinking buddies. Common highly damaging outcomes can include exposure to physical assaults, sexual assaults and involvement in motor vehicles accidents.
5. Heavy drinking can trigger other mental health disorders
In the same way heavy drinking can increase the potential for an individual to become addicted, substance abuse patterns also escalate the likelihood of experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, aggression and eating disorders. In some cases these issues may simply be attached to the behavior and consequences of binge drinking, so moderating or abstaining from drinking will have a positive impact on mental health. For others, whether the mental health condition was present before or induced as a result of heavy drinking, a negative cycle of substance abuse can develop in an effort to cope with the mental health problem. In these instances it’s important to seek help with a doctor or treatment facility where both conditions can be evaluated and proper care can be administered.
6. Social media normalizes drinking a lot
Today’s young people have, in addition to their peer groups, social media platforms to self-report on what they’re doing, their beliefs and behaviors. In the same way peer pressure to party can influence, social media can paint a picture which makes heavy drinking lifestyles seem more glamorous than they really are. People never want to think that we are moved by other’s choices, but tend to mimic the actions of our immediate social group.
Knowledge can help form decisions
College is about learning and developing a strong individual sense to carry into adulthood, it’s important young people are armed with the facts about binge drinking so they can make educated decisions about what’s positive and healthy for their future.
What do you think? We invite your questions, comments, and feedback now.
Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan