Posted on: September 22, 2022

Binge Drinking in College: What Percent of Students Drink Alcohol?

What percentage of college students report having an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days?

College is an important time when students have newfound freedom and independence to pursue new friendships, become part of a new social scene, and create many different experiences. However, this is also when students who are not used to alcohol consumption begin experimenting with it, it’s called “the college effect.” 

Across campuses in the U.S, many college students between the ages of 18 and 24 engage in the dangerous behavior known as binge drinking. Binge drinking refers to consuming alcohol to the point of excessive intoxication. For a variety of reasons, college students are far more likely to engage in binge drinking, which puts them at risk of serious consequences on their health, education, and careers. 

In this post, we’re going to go over the dangerous relationship between college and binge drinking and the consequences that can arise. 

What is Binge Drinking? 

Many college alcohol problems are related to binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent, or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter, or higher (BAC of 0.08 percent corresponds to 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters). For an average adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks for males, or four or more drinks for females, in about two hours. 

Drinking excessively in this manner can result in major health and safety issues, such as car accidents, DUI arrests, sexual assaults, and injuries. Frequent binge drinking over time can also harm the liver and other organs. 

What percent of college students drink alcohol? 

Four out of five college students, or about 80% of college students, drink alcohol while an estimated 50% of those students engage in binge drinking. 
Many young adults admit to drinking alcohol even before they begin college. Students are frequently tempted by the easy access to alcohol at social gatherings and sporting events. What may initially be one drink might unexpectedly become more. Frequently drinking may also result in the body developing an alcohol tolerance, meaning you will need to consume more alcohol to experience the same effect. 

What percentage of college students report having an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days? 
Some students enter college with already existing drinking behavior, and the college culture they encounter might lead to bigger problems. A nationwide survey found that about 53% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month and about 33% engaged in binge drinking during that same time frame. However, some binge drinking college students also engage in high-intensity drinking, defined as drinking what is at least twice as much as what is considered binge drinking. 

What percentage of students drink alcohol every day? 

According to previous federal data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than one in eight American undergrads, or 1.4 million college students between the ages of 18 and 22, drink alcohol every day. 

Moreover, the percentage of incoming college students who drink is 11% for frequent heavy drinkers. Frequent heavy drinking is defined as having five or more drinks for men, in a sitting, three or more times during a two-week period, or having four or more drinks for women, in a sitting, three or more times during a two-week period. 

Binge Drinking in College

Research indicates that a significant percentage of college students engage in binge drinking. The first six weeks of freshman year are when college students are most likely to binge drink. After the first day of classes, many of these students fall under the peer pressure of college drinking. Alcohol consumption is frequently seen as part of the desired social college experience. Students continue to drink without considering the potential consequences because they want to meet new people and don't want to feel left out. 
Over the past few decades, college students have shown a preference for hard liquor over beer. A rising percentage of young individuals are drinking to get drunk rather than to socialize. This is dangerous because liquor requires fewer drinks to have an impact due to its high alcohol content percentage. 
Moreover, some binge-drinking college students have a risky goal of consuming as much alcohol as possible or passing out. This may lead to college alcoholism and potentially fatal consequences. 

Researchers looked at the consequences of heavy college drinking among students between the ages of 18 to 24. They found that each year:

  • 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. 
  • 696,000 college students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • 97,000 college students report an alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. 

Consequences of Binge Drinking 

Nearly every undergrad, drinker or non-drinker, has been affected by alcohol abuse among college students during their college life. When a person consumes excessive amounts of alcohol and endangers their own health as well as the health of others, alcohol-related issues start to develop. 

Several negative effects of binge drinking in colleges include:

  • Not following through on important work, school, or home responsibilities. About one in four college students report academic problems from drinking. 
  • Continuous drinking, even when it causes problems with friends or family. These problems are caused or made worse by alcohol consumption. 
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as while driving a car or operating machinery. 

Additionally, binge drinkers have a greater risk of:

  • Killing someone
  • Suicide
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Involvement with police 
  • Unsafe sex
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Inflammation of the stomach, pancreas, brain, or spinal cord
  • Alcohol poisoning 
  • Depression 

College students with drinking problems can seek help and support through many safe and effective methods and resources, including treatment programs designed specifically for young adults. 

To help reduce risk and create a safer, more responsible environment, get educated and informed about alcohol use by taking a TIPS course