Dear College, you’ve turned me into an Alcoholic.

Even prior to stepping foot on a college campus I was made very aware of the excessive drinking that takes place. It wasn’t till l came to college that I understood college student’s need to binge drink. As a Sophomore  I have sort of become desensitized to drunken students wobbling down the street every weekend and I do not even bat an eye when I see someone passed out in the hallway of the residence halls. Has alcohol abuse become normalized on college campuses all over the world? I say yes. The entire culture of college encourages drinking and “turning up” as if it’s an Olympic feat.

Why is that? Is there a link between the stress of college and the amount of binge drinking college students partake in?

Image result for college stress and alcohol

College Students Under Stress Turn To Alcohol

There were some new findings discovered by a team of Canadian researchers, in their study titled “Acute Stress Increases Voluntary consumption of Alcohol in Undergraduates” This study discovered that the presence of short term or acute stress had an impact on the amount of alcohol consumed by college students in their undergrad. This study indicated that students studying in higher education institutions experience greater, elevated level’s of acute stress caused by financial burdens, the extreme workload, and/or the copious amount of exams (Robotham and Julian, 2006).

Additionally, figures compiled by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism depict that more than 40 percent students in undergraduate institutions in America binge drink at least once in a a 2 week span. I’ll however argue that, that number significantly doubles the bigger the students on campus. Here at Penn State for example, I’ll bet that our students will attest to drinking once or twice every week; what we here at Penn State call “Mad Max Monday’s”, “Turn up Tuesday’s”, “Thirsty Thursday’s “and etc.

Acute Stress and College Drinking  

Acute Stress is broadly described by psychologist and mental health professionals alike as a type of stress associated with situations or events happening in the present or near-future, along with recent past events and situations. Some indicators of this short term form of stress are; the “stress emotions” (depression, irritability, anger and/or anxiety). These individuals who continually experience acute stress reactions are said to have a separate and more severe form of stress exposure known as episodic acute stress. This I argue is what most college students have.

“I’m stressed, I need a Drink”

Researchers at Queen’s University, in the study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, used results they accumulated from a small experiment containing 75 individuals to gauge the impact that acute stress has on the binge drinking that college students partake in during a drinking session. These subjects were all college students in their undergrad years between the ages of 17 and 23. In their study, these researchers used a procedure called the Trier Social Stress Test to provoke and measure acute stress reactions in participants.

In this study, some of the students had unlimited access to alcohol where others had unlimited access to the placebo -which was designed to look and taste just like alcohol or a identified non alcoholic drink. They prompted these students to participate in a half hour drinking session.  After the study the researchers concluded that the students with access to alcohol substantially increased the amount they drank after they were exposed to acute stress. However, neither the subjects who received the placebo or the ones receiving the clearly identified ‘non-alcoholic beverage’ had an increase in their level of consumption when exposed to acute stress levels. So based on their findings, the conclusion was that stress levels have a significant impact on the amount of alcohol consumed by college students in a typical drinking session.

What this goes to prove is that there is a correlation, not a causation -given there’s other mitigating factors, between the amount of stress college students withstand in higher education and the amount of drinking they participate in.

in simpler terms, Universities are helping to turn our students into alcoholics.

If interested in this conversation further, here’s a study on the Prevalence of binge drinking and associated behaviours among 3286 college students in France. A paper on the Influences of Stress and Beliefs on Alcohol Use. As well as a study disagreeing with the points I made, concluding that there is no relationship between high stress levels and harmful alcohol use, based on research done on 221undergraduate students in Botswana.

A meta-analysis of all the studies shows that there isn’t one definitive answer. Some studies say that the stress of college is a huge factor in college students binge drinking and dangerous alcohol use, while other say there isn’t a direct causation between the two (that there are third confounding variables; relationships, home-sickness, peer-pressure, etc.)

10 thoughts on “Dear College, you’ve turned me into an Alcoholic.

  1. Jennafer Palmer

    This post poses a very good stance on alcohol consumption among college students. It makes a lot of sense that the amount of alcohol consumed by college age adults is due to stress, and the amount of stress increases the amount of alcohol consumed. There are definitely other ways to handle stress, but it is so ingrained in the college culture that going out from Thursday through Saturday is a way to relieve the stresses that come along with trying to obtain a college degree. I believe in having fun, but not to the extent that it’s putting oneself in a compromising situation. There is a difference between drinking to feel good and have fun and drinking to get drunk.

  2. lkv5058

    Wow, one of my recent blogs is very similar to this. I too looked into the study on acute stress and alcohol consumption and found it very interesting. I noticed that Penn State showed up very high on both the top party school and most stressed students list.
    I think we need to take a serious look into how we can reduce stress on campus. i think it will lead to less binge drinking which will in turn lead to less alcohol poisoning, less sexual assault, and less underages. This study could be a break through in how to fix this campus culture of stress and heavy alcohol consumption.

  3. Rebecca Aronow

    I’ve had so many conversations with friends and family about how a shocking majority of college students, especially here at Penn State, can be categorized as alcoholic. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as routinely drinking until your blood alcohol concentration is .08, which is about 4 drinks for women and 5 for men in around 2 hours. I think that a large percentage of the PSU population drinks to the amount stated in that definition at least once a week, which to me is routinely. But because so many students drink that much, it has become the norm and people often fail to question how student drinking habits are harmful, and also, why students drink so heavily in the first place—what you covered really well in your post. I think drinking at college campuses are often just attributed to “party culture”, when in reality stress is a huge factor that should be considered. I know so many people who after a long day of classes go home and immediately start drinking to relax themselves. And more regularly, students will wait out the week so that they can party hard on Friday and Saturday (and pretty often Wednesday or Thursday too). I think that Penn State has failed in truly analyzing why there is such a strong drinking culture here, tackling the surface issue by teaching students how to consume alcohol safely instead of reevaluating the education system and trying to create a less stressful environment in which drinking will decrease.

  4. Mary M. Brown

    This post was so insightful and very well thought out. The drinking culture on college campuses has grown tremendously. I think a common misconception is that people only drink because of the freedoms that come with college, when in fact that only serves as part of the puzzle, as you explained by noting the stress induced binge drinking on college campuses. Do you think the lack of alcohol education on a specific campus could play a role in the amount of drinking caused by stress at that school? While a lot of campuses seem to turn a blind eye towards drinking, some choose to educate the student body. For example, PSU requires us to take a short online course describing the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. Some campuses have even gone a step further and banned hard liquor on campus, like at Dartmouth. Honestly, I’m not sure if this is the most effective way to discourage the drinking culture at schools, but maybe its a small start to the amount of stress drinking on campuses.

  5. Kacey Elizabeth Gill

    Hi Stephanie,

    I think your post addressed a very important topic. Binge drinking is a serious epidemic and it is becoming more and more common among younger students. I agree that it is to an extent related to stress but kids drink for many other reasons and most probably don’t even realize what they are doing is considered binge drinking and the fact that the majority of it is done by minors is scary to think about for it has the potential to cause serious health risks and can lead to alcoholism. Adding to that, many students follow in the footsteps of their friends and merely join in on the celebrations that come with being a college student at Penn State and have no legitimate reason for drinking as much as they do other then that they were bored and there was nothing else to do. Stress is definitely a contributing factor to binge drinking but like you said, I agree that it is only a link. I believe that they have the potential to have a reverse relationship. Meaning that binge drinking causes stress. This could be true for many reasons because if a student drinks too heavily one night they could miss class the next day or easily fall behind on assignments resulting in stress. Similarly, the correlation could be a result of a third variable; meaning that some other factor causes college students to be both stressed and binge drink. I believe that you would like this article because it discusses the other possible causes for binge drinking and the harmful effects.

  6. Molly Mccarthy Tompson

    This post is extremely interesting and relevant to me, even as a newcomer/freshman on campus. Weekly, and sometimes almost daily, I see someone stumbling down the hallway, and the next morning they have no recollection of what happened. It was shocking to me how easily accessible alcohol is to students all over State College, and probably at most other colleges in the country. I found this article about how to “safely” drink in college.

  7. Marielle Concetta Ravally

    I definitely think that this is a very interesting post, especially since it is very relatable to our lives. Many college students get through their stressful weeks by looking forward to the weekend and to the time when they are able to just drink and forget about exams, meetings, and responsibilities. Though your findings didn’t necessarily prove a direct correlation, personally I feel that there is one. I often see that the more stressed a student is the more willing they are to “cut loose” and often use their high levels of stress as an excuse to “go crazy”. I’m interested in learning more about your topic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Olivia Anne Browne

    This post was very relevant to college students especially us here at penn state. Although PSU has some pretty decent claims at being a huge party school, I think you hit spot on relating it to stress (somewhat). Being here at Penn State I know this school is most definitely a party school. Although, I do believe this is an academically advance school as well, who’s to say smart kids can’t party too? Or not even that, us PSU students are constantly stressed out and overwhelmed with work that sure, we might turn to alcohol. Needless to say, I think that if we were too be given less work and less challenging work the drinking would remain. Great post, great relatable topic!
    Check out this link about why college kids drink so much…

  9. Margaret Marchok

    This was a very well-written post. You hit on a lot of good topics here. It is no secret that college student consume a lot of alcohol for a wide variety of reasons. However, the stress thing really hit home with me. I have been many people go off the deep end with drinking all because they are incredibly stressed out with school. There are so many different ways to reduce stress such as going for a run or taking a nap, yet they choose to put themselves in harms way by drinking to excess. You might be interested in reading this article- . It gives various tips on how colleges can reduce their student’s binge drinking.

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