Alcohol Abuse in College: Signs and Prevention

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : August 28, 
| 4 Sources

Dealing With College Alcohol Abuse

Although common, college alcohol abuse does not need to be an issue for your child or loved one

alcohol abuse in college

Alcohol abuse in college is prevalent. We all know that the college environment tends to involve a considerable about of alcohol abuse. We see it in movies, television shows and hear about it on the news. Keep in mind that movies and television shows can be exaggerated. College drinking could sometimes still be viewed as a innocuous rite of passage. However, college students are actually consuming more alcohol than any other demographic or age group.

Alcohol abuse in college- College parties and other social events commonly involve beer and liquor.

So how can you help your loved one make this transition to college in a way that does not involve alcohol abuse?

College Alcohol Abuse
Get Involved

One of the simplest things you can do is to take the time to sit down and talk to the student about alcohol abuse and its dangers. Helping them understand the dangers of alcohol abuse can help provide them with information as well as open a line of communication between both of you that may not have been there before.

It is normal for students to drink, so encouraging them to abstain from alcohol use may not be realistic. This approach may also have a negative impact on their comfort level talking to you if they do experience troubles as a result of drinking. Rather, you can discuss how to drink responsibly.

When talking to your student, you should discuss how alcohol impairs a person’s judgement and coordination. Dangerous and underage college drinking are major public health issues, and they take an enormous toll on the students’ lives on campuses all over the US. It is important to note that an estimated 1,825 students die per year from alcohol related deaths. This number does include alcohol related car accidents.

Research has shown that binge drinking increases a persons’ risk for physical and sexual assault. You can help the student develop a safety plan including plans such as not going out alone, not driving impaired or getting in a car with an impaired driver, staying with people you know, having an “exit” plan for situations when they don’t feel safe and educating them about resources available to them on campus such as campus security and their counseling center.

college alcohol abuse

You can also talk about their future goals and how excessive use of alcohol could get in the way and/or make it more challenging to reach their goals. Examples of this could be loss of focus in class due to a hangover, missing classes due to oversleeping from a night of partying and having less time to complete coursework.

Hopefully they are attending college because they see some benefit from it; use this to help them see how drinking can deter them. Try to have an open discussion when talking about these topics to avoid creating any tension around alcohol. Your student will be less likely to talk to you if they are worried about being judged or criticized.

It is possible for your student to become involved in the college community in ways that don't involve alcohol. Take time to familiarize yourself with groups and clubs that are available on your student’s campus. You can then talk to your student about clubs and groups that align with their interests and hobbies.

The transition to college from high school can be stressful and overwhelming, so being aware of mental health services such as a counseling center could be of value as well. Tell your student that it is OK to reach out for help if they find themselves struggling.

Some other great options for getting involved can include:

  • Have them attend an alcohol abuse prevention course
  • Require a term paper done on the effects of alcohol on the body
  • Ensure they join a club that teaches alternatives to binge drinking
  • Encourage them to join clubs that offer sober social activities
  • Encourage them to reach out to the campus counseling center if they need to talk to someone

Are you a teenager worried about your drinking? Take our adolescent alcoholism test to discover if you need help.

Are you a parent who wants to know if their child is abusing alcohol? Read signs of adolescent alcoholism.

Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse in College

As a parent or guardian, you can talk to your student and do all you can to help them and they may still abuse alcohol. At this point in their lives, they are transitioning from adolescent to adulthood which means that they are beginning to make their own decisions.

With that comes both negative and positive consequences. So then what can you do? One thing would be to educate yourself about the warning signs of alcohol abuse in a college student and use this to recognize areas of concern.

Keep in mind this list of warning signs could be present for reasons other than alcohol abuse. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • A dramatic change in their behavior
  • Change in hygiene 
  • A significant drop in their grades
  • Financial struggles
  • Isolating behaviors
  • Change in the cleanliness of their living space
  • Mood changes 
  • Increase in anger

Let’s take a moment to recognize how some of these warning signs can be a normal experience for a college student. College is hard! The stress of studies, internships, wanting to make social connections and working alone can be enough to cause a change in their behavior.

Remember how your student responds to stress. Is it normal for them to be moody, be angry or have a change in their hygiene? Use your intuition to judge when something doesn’t feel right. The difficulty of the courses that a student is taking could also cause a drop in their grades.

If you have concern, the simple thing to do would be to let them know you are concerned and here to support them.

College Alcohol Abuse

It is important to note that not all students will abuse alcohol. Some students will drink responsibility and some students will not drink at all. There is a large number of students who do not abuse alcohol.

The point to that is that not every student abuses alcohol in college, so let that put you slightly at ease. 

Learning about the signs of alcohol abuse can help you feel more confident in your ability to step in if you become concerned. Trust your intuition, as you know your child better than anyone else. 

Binge drinking is a concern among college campuses. Binge drinking for women is consuming 4 or more drinks in two hours and binge drinking for men is consuming 5 or more drinks in 2 hours. Drinking games are often played at parties and can include large amounts of alcohol.

These games include flip-cup, quarters and beer pong (Beirut). For some of these games, one round of the game involves enough alcohol to meet the binge drinking minimum. Young adults who binge drink are at a higher risk of chronic alcohol abuse, also known as alcoholism. 

Excessive alcohol drinking among college kids (alcohol abuse in college) is linked to poor class attendance, hangovers, damaged property, injuries, trouble with authorities, and fatalities. An estimated 3,360,000 college students within the ages of 18 and 24 drive under the influence of alcohol.

If you are looking for information for a specific college or university, many schools will post information received from studies about the student body. These often include clubs, sports and social activities. Keep in mind that these studies rarely include every student, so there may be slight inaccuracies.

Nowadays, there are a lot of effective and safe ways to help with a college student’s drinking issues. There are also rehabilitation facilities that offer treatment programs customized to the needs of young adults. Reach out to a dedicated treatment provider here.

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College Drinking.

NCBI. Reasons for Drinking in the College Student Context: The Differential Role and Risk of the Social Motivator. October 30, 2014.

American Psychological Association. New insights on college drinking. October 2013.

The Washington Post. How much do college students really drink?. April 10, 2013.

Return From Alcohol Abuse In College To Teen Alcohol Abuse

Return From Alcohol Abuse In College To Alcoholism Help Homepage

Alcoholism Help Homepage | What is Alcoholism | Signs of Alcoholism | Alcoholism Tests | Alcohol Abuse Effects | Living with an Addict | Alcoholism Recovery | The AA Way| Alcoholism Cure| Alcoholism Medication | My Story | Alcoholism Guide Blog | Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.