What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Binge Drinking

For many college students, spring and summer break, fall rush or football season are all good excuses partying, staying up late and drinking alcohol. Not that they need an excuse. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, especially if you’re currently (or have ever been) in college.

Drinking is often a regular part of college activities. What might surprise you, though, is the amount of drinking many college students partake in, and the risks that come along with over-imbibing.

What Is Binge Drinking?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that raises blood alcohol levels to or above 0.08 g/dL. This typically happens after four drinks for women and five drinks for men over about a two-hour timeframe.1

How Much Do College Students Drink?

Friends running on the beachAccording to a national survey published by the NIAAA, almost 60 percent of college students between 18 and 22 drank alcohol in the previous month, and almost two-thirds of them binge drank.2 In one study, college men on spring break reported drinking 18 drinks a day on average, while women reported drinking up to 10, and 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women drank until they got sick or passed out at least once during the break.3

You might think this is normal — who doesn’t drink a little bit too much in college, especially on spring break? After all, college kids are young and carefree, so what’s wrong with having a little too much fun?

Unfortunately, too much fun, when it involves too much alcohol, can quickly turn dangerous and even deadly. College students should take special precautions by knowing the facts and knowing their personal limits when it comes to drinking.

What Are the Risks of Drinking Too Much?

There are many risks of drinking too much alcohol, both directly and indirectly related to intoxication. The NIAAA lists startling statistics about incidents among college students each year that involve drinking:

  • About 696,000 students between 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • Approximately 97,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Roughly one in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, such as missing class or falling behind, performing poorly on school work and getting lower grades overall.
  • About 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder.
  • Approximately 1,825 students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car wrecks.2

One of the most immediate risks of overconsumption of alcohol is alcohol poisoning, which can cause serious complications such as brain damage, hypothermia, severe dehydration, choking and death.3

How Do I Know If Someone Has Had Too Much?

It may seem easy to tell if someone is drunk, but there are important signs to look for when you suspect someone has been drinking too much. If you notice any of the following signs in a friend (or yourself), they could be experiencing alcohol poisoning and need to get to a hospital immediately.

  • Pale skin
  • Vomiting
  • Passing out
  • Irregular breathing
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Low body temperature
  • Clammy skin
  • Can’t be woken up3

If you see any of these symptoms, call 911 or get them to the emergency room immediately. If you’ve been drinking too or are underage, don’t hesitate out of fear of repercussions. Someone’s life could be on the line. In fact, many colleges have “Good Samaritan” laws that prevent repercussions for someone who calls for help on behalf of a friend.4

How Can I Stay Safe On Spring Break (or Anytime)?

Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you on occasions when alcohol is involved.

  • Be smartStay with people you know and trust, and never go anywhere alone. Keep someone sober around who can keep an eye out for the drinkers and give everyone a ride home. Always know how you’re getting home. Never drink and drive or ride with someone who is drinking.
  • Know your limits Keep up with how many drinks you’ve had, and know when it’s time to stop. Don’t drink on an empty stomach, and switch between alcoholic drinks and water to slow yourself down and stay hydrated.
  • Don’t mix medicines Many medicines, opiates, sedatives and even caffeine can react negatively with alcohol. Be careful what you consume while you’re drinking.
  • Be a friend Since you’ll be responsibly drinking as you follow the steps above, take the opportunity to look out for your friends who may not be following the same preventative measures. If someone looks like they need help, step up and take action.

Spring break should be a time to have fun, relax and, yes, cut loose. But all of these things can be done responsibly. You won’t regret making smart decisions that ensure the health and safety of yourself and your friends around you.

By Wesley Gallagher


1Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Accessed February 13, 2018.

2 College Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, December 2015.

3The Dangers of Alcohol Use On College Spring Break.” Skywood Recovery Center, Accessed February 13, 2018.

4 Bush, Julia. “How to Drink In College Without Ruining Your Life or Liver.Huffington Post, August 18, 2015.

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