What are the Dangers of College Binge Drinking?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : October 21, 
| 4 Sources

There are many who believe that binge drinking and college go hand in hand, yet college binge drinking is a major cause of concern for parents, health professionals and society at large.

The potential for binge drinking to become a stepping stone to alcoholism (if not controlled), its effects on physical AND mental health and the behavior of those under the influence (unsafe sex, car accidents and the like) are staple fodder for the media. A media that only fuels the anxiety of adults. So why is it that binge drinking in college is relatively common?

Read What is Binge Drinking to learn more about what makes a person a binge drinker.

Causes Of College Binge Drinking

There are various factors that can drive a college student to take up binge drinking:

  • Peer pressure and the need for acceptance
  • As an ‘initiation rite’ into certain cliques and groups in college
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Celebrating an occasion or achievement
  • The need to feel more confident and uninhibited in a social gathering
  • The need to reinforce a ‘macho’ or assertive image
  • Curiosity
  • As a form of rebellion, particularly against parents and other authority figures in the student’s life
  • Other factors, such as genetics or a family background of alcohol abuse
However, these reasons aside, the ’21 for 21’ phenomenon has also worried many doctors, families, and support groups that are keen on fighting what they see as the binge drinking and college menace.

In some colleges/universities it is an accepted custom for college students to drink 21 glasses of alcohol when they turn 21 (for obvious reasons), and it is a very common reason for binge drinking.

For more on why people binge drink, read reasons for binge drinking.

Effects of Binge Drinking in College

While on the subject of the ’21 for 21’ phenomenon and binge drinking in college, researchers have estimated that a majority of men and women who consume 21 glasses of alcohol in one sitting can have a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading as high as 0.26, well above the nationwide 0.08 limit.

Such elevated BAC is associated with extremely serious medical outcomes such as coma and disorientation, and in extreme cases, even death. Damaging and underage college drinking are substantial public health issues, and they take a massive toll on the lives of college students across the U.S.

  • Additionally, alcohol has been linked to as many as 2/3rd of college suicides and 95% of student related crimes on campus. Binge drinking also results in accidental injuries. Binge drinking is the leading preventable cause of premature death due to its links to automobile accidents. College binge drinking has also led to homicide, sexual abuse, injury, and criminal behavior in many cases.
  • Students who binge drink often are more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and isolation.
  • Binge drinking in college on a regular basis has affected students to the degree of hampering their focus, school work, and contributing to absenteeism and low grades. There is also evidence suggesting that too much alcohol use in young adults could impair brain development, including memory and cognition.
  • However, one of the most damning effects of binge drinking and college is sexual assault. This activity has, according to statistics, accounted for the majority of female student rapes- as high as 90%, according to research conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. This study also revealed that as many as 73% of the perpetrators and 55% of rape victims had indulged in excessive drinking prior to the act.
  • Moreover, it is well-documented that women absorb alcohol differently than men; females tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration and less water in their system after drinking the same amount of alcohol as a man. Therefore, female students who indulge in college binge drinking are more likely to suffer from liver and alcohol-induced brain damage over time.

college-binge-drinking info

Some of the health conditions associated with binge drinking are:

Preventing College Binge Drinking

  1. Binge drinking is a severe but preventable public health issue. The best way to prevent binge drinking is to either stop drinking alcohol altogether or limit yourself to the 5/4 rule when you are in a social setting. Try and curb your intake to about one strong drink per hour after eating something.
  2. Campaigns and campus initiatives that provide guidance and information on binge drinking effects and also make the college alcohol policy accessible to one and all can be of great help. Other practices, such as an alcohol ban on campus, can prove beneficial as well.
  3. Parents really need to make sure their kids are well-informed of their choices at hand and need to be there for them 24/7.
  4. Some researchers and government bodies have claimed that restrictions such as raising the legal age for drinking, upping alcohol costs and excise tax, and restricting liquor licenses can help prevent college binge drinking.
  5. Intervention and counseling can help students who are already suffering from the effects of college binge drinking by way of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing. The latter has proved particularly helpful for students who already suffer from alcohol dependency.
  6. Save a Life Today!

    College binge drinking can lead to serious consequences. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, please contact a treatment provider today.

Binge drinker or alcohol dependent? Take an alcoholism test to find out.

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


University of Rochester Medical Center. College Students and the Dangers of Binge Drinking. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=1924

American Psychological Association. New insights on college drinking. October 2013. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/college-drinking

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge Drinking. December 30, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College Drinking. January 2021. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/college-drinking

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