Alcoholism, binge-drinking affects college students

(Graphic by Carly Adams)

About 1,800 students 18-24 years old die every year from alcohol-related accidents, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“One day you’re seeing your friend on a regular basis and the next he’s gone,” Matthew Legler, junior in electrical engineering said. “Comprehending something like that isn’t easy. There’s definitely some people out there that should never touch alcohol.”

Legler said his friend was under the influence of alcohol when he mistakenly trespassed on private property. The owner, who was also under the influence, took him for a robber and shot him. He later died while being taken to the hospital.

Legler’s friend, like some college students, was a heavier drinker, and he was known to drink several days out of the week, Legler said.

“There are a lot of reasons that college students are known for drinking,” Briana Carrillo, graduate student in communication studies, said. “I think one of the biggest reasons is that it’s so normalized in our culture. College is where you drink. I think it also stems from this warped belief that your tolerance for alcohol directly equates to your strength or value as a person.”

Results from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions show that more than 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.

A study done by K-State shows that 82 percent of students at K-State drink alcohol, according to Chaz Mailey, psychologist and coordinator of the K-State Alcohol and Other Drug Education Service. Though the number of students seeking alcohol-related help at K-State Counseling Services changes semester to semester, about 1 in 5 students seeking help report having concerns about alcohol abuse, Mailey said.

“They don’t think they have a problem, so they never seek help,” Carrillo said. “There’s a lot of stigma about drug dependency, so then we have society not doing anything to help those kids help themselves either.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 60 percent of the students who participated had drank alcohol during the month prior to the survey and that 1 out of 3 of those students engaged in binge-drinking during that same month.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge-drinking as a pattern of consuming alcohol to the point where blood alcohol concentration goes to 0.08 percent or above. This occurs after most people have four to five drinks within two hours, according to the NIAAA.

“We’re known for drinking because we can actually get away with it,” Michaela Matthews, sophomore in family studies and human services, said. “I could drink every weekend and still absolutely destroy my exams if I set my mind to it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent national statistics on alcohol abuse show that excessive drinking behaviors, such as binge-drinking, are most often not cases of alcoholism. About 90 percent of excessive drinkers did not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence, according to the 2011 CDC study “Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among U.S. Adult Drinkers.”

“​I think a major risk is doing something we’ll later regret,” Matthews said. “Everyone’s trying to have a good time, but it’s easy to go too far. Later you end up drinking just to forget. And liver damage. I bet we’ll pay for all this later.”