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Sobriety on College Campuses

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Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

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College life in America is almost synonymous with weekend parties and alcohol. For most students, it can be difficult to abstain from alcohol when your friends are partying. It’s even more difficult for those who have grown dependent on alcohol.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 70 percent of people reported that they drank in the past year, 56 percent in the past month, and 26.9 percent engaged in binge drinking in the last month.1

Drinking beer on picnic tableWhat constitutes binge drinking? Binge drinking is when an individual has five or more drinks in a row. 32.4 percent of college students admit to binge drinking in the past two weeks, while 40.8 percent of college students admit to being intoxicated in the past month.2

Fraternities and sororities have long been labeled with stereotypes of heavy substance abuse and hazing practices. While most college campuses have formally banned such activities, these incidents continue to occur.

College is a fun time in life, but it’s also stressful. Approximately one in four college students report academic consequences due to drinking.3 Students attempt to balance all the obligations on their plates with exams and school projects, sustain good grades, participate in extracurricular activities and maintain a social life.

With this kind of pressure, it’s easy to excuse letting loose on the weekend, or even a weeknight. But when letting loose leads to going too far, the risks far outweigh the rewards.

Health Risks of Binge Drinking

Sadly, the problems due to drinking are much more serious than poor grades. Here are some of the health risks related to drinking alcohol:

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, and burns.
  • Violence including homicide, suicide, and sexual assault.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • High blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Memory and learning problems.
  • Alcohol dependence and more.4

Because of these health risks, many college campuses across the United States work with local chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous. Some colleges have meetings on campus for those battling substance abuse. Penn State boasts its own Collegiate Recovery Community that is geared toward encouraging sobriety and helping those with dependency issues stay clean. A reported 10 percent of members belonging to Alcoholics Anonymous are under the age of 30, and many are college students.

Another popular method to control alcohol abuse on campus is alcohol management. This program is not well-suited for those who are dependent on alcohol or require treatment that goes beyond the scope of educational tactics to reduce or stop drinking. Some students are big fans of harm-reduction therapies that teach them to control how much and how often they drink, as well as how to identify which of their drinking behaviors may be dangerous. Behavioral therapies can also assist students who want to learn to drink reasonable amounts of alcohol.

Rational Recovery is a self-help based approach aimed at total abstinence, while SMART Recovery works on maintaining abstinence after recovery begins. Many of these groups offer online support groups and software-based educational materials to boost the addict’s chance of success following their treatment plans.

These groups are quite popular with more than 135 programs in place to deter substance on campuses across the nation.7 Some campuses such as UC Berkley impose strict rules and regulations for the possession and use of drugs or alcohol. These consequences include several actions on top of informing school officials and coaches, such as mandated counseling, harm-reduction practices, and suspension from school.8 Other institutions have banned some types of booze altogether, such as Dartmouth, which no longer allows hard liquor such as vodka or whiskey.9

The Struggle to Stay Clean

In social environments such as college, being sober can seem like social suicide to some students who are just trying to fit in. There is a lot of pressure on freshmen specifically to find their niche. This may be the reason why many students in the freshman age group are more prone to alcohol abuse than any other college student demographic.

One of the best ways to ensure your drinking doesn’t get out of control is to seek out other students who are also interested in abstaining. The crowd you surround yourself with influences your decisions. Finding roommates to live with off-campus is another option since it is easier to control the environment away from campus rather than in a dorm.

Many campuses are now home to sober parties, too. If you’re struggling to fit in and find yourself using alcohol to warm up to others at parties or simply to find a group of people to hang out with, you’re drinking for the wrong reasons. It will always benefit you to take an interest in social activities that don’t require drinking, such as going to dinner with friends, attending a local sporting event, or going to a concert. You’re far more likely to blend in at one of these events than a party on campus where the only thing that is really going on is drinking.

Of course, drinking doesn’t always start in college. Many who attend have had experiences with alcohol before they step foot on campus. However, how early you start drinking may have a serious effect on your future relationship with alcohol. Among young people aged 12 to 20 years old, the average age they start drinking is 16.1 years old.

Help for Addiction

The good news is that more college-aged individuals are seeking help than ever before. Michael’s House offers comprehensive care to help students struggling with drug and alcohol abuse get back on the right track. If needed, detox and rehab can address any underlying issues that led to the substance abuse in the first place. Get the help you need today. Call us now at 760.548.4032, and we will help you move forward so you can live a clean, sober life.


1Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:
Detailed Tables
.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. Accessed March 12, 2018.

2 “Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2016.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. September 2017.

3College Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. September 2015.

4Fact Sheets Binge Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 7, 2017.

5Schedules Announced For On-Campus Alcoholics Anonymous And Al-Anon Groups.” August 22, 2017.

6Young People and A.A.” Accessed March 12, 2018.

7 Kingkade, T. “How Texas College Students Are Using Yoga And Tailgating To Stay Sober.Huffington Post. May 27, 2015.

8Campus Statement on Alcohol.” Accessed March 12, 2018.

9 Sanburn, Josh. “Dartmouth Bans Hard Alcohol on Campus for All.” Time Magazine. January 29, 2015.