Alcoholism in College Students: What Causes It?

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Alcoholism in College Students: What Causes It?

Beyond the idea of higher education, college is often associated with young adults going to crazy parties, binge drinking, experimenting with drugs, and partaking in risky behavior. This may not always be the case, but for those students who go a little overboard with their college experience, their free-spirited behaviors at school may lead to serious long-term trouble. Today we’re taking a look at alcoholism in college students and why this age group seems to drink so much. 

The Association Between College & Alcohol 

For many of these students, college is their first time away from home and without parental supervision. It is natural for many of these young adults to act more freely, but they may not be aware of the dangers that can come from these habits. As a Banyan Lake Worth rehab, we know that drinking problems can start with just a few drinks, and unfortunately, alcoholism in college students is all too common. 

So what percentage of college students drink alcohol? Well, the majority of students in college drink at some point, whether it is legally or illegally.  

Some students come to college with pre-existing drinking habits, which the college environment further encourages. According to more recent studies, almost 53% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month, and about 33% of college students engaged in binge drinking during the same time frame. 

In this case, binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for males and four or more drinks for females. However, some college students have reported at least drinking twice that amount, a behavior known as high-intensity drinking. 

What’s more, not only are college students drinking alcohol more frequently, but their drinking habits are leading to alcoholism. Around 9% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 meet the criteria for past-year alcohol use disorder, according to another 2019 national survey. 

This means that the increased drinking habits of college students are leading to long-term consequences.  

Why Do College Students Drink? 

Alcohol use in college students is linked to damaged property, poor class attendance, hangovers, trouble with the law, injuries, and fatalities. So not only has the need for intervention and alcoholism treatment for college students become evident, but to formulate effective treatment options, we must also understand why college students drink.  

Common reasons college students will drink include:  

  • Peer pressure 
  • Alcohol accessibility 
  • Pressure to be accepted by peers 
  • Emotional escape and relief 
  • Coping with stress 
  • Loneliness and homesickness 
  • Mental illness 

Along with the party environment that college creates, mental health is a major contributing factor to the bad drinking habits of this population. College can be a stressful time for many students as they deal with a lot of changes and pressure.  

One survey on mental health and college students found a 135% increase in depression and a 110% increase in anxiety in college students from 2013 to 2021. Additionally, the number of college students who met the criteria for one or more mental health disorders doubled from 2013 to 2021. 

Another survey of college counseling center directors found that 41% of college students struggle with anxiety and 36% with depression. We must also consider the impact of COVID-19 on college students, as well.  

According to a survey of 30,725 undergraduate students and 15,346 graduates, 35% of undergraduates and 32% of graduate and professional students were diagnosed with major depressive disorder (depression), while 39% of undergraduate and graduate students were diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).  

The same survey found that the prevalence of depression in college students was twice as high in 2020 compared to 2019, and the prevalence of anxiety was 1.5 times higher in 2020 than in 2019. In addition to the stress of academic performance and even athletic performance and relationships in college, mental illness also plays a significant role in alcohol abuse in college students. 

Our Lake Worth drug rehab offers dual diagnosis treatment that incorporates addiction and mental health care for those who have developed a co-occurring disorder (addiction and mental illness.) In addition to a possible co-occurring disorder, alcoholism in college students can also lead to other serious problems like DWIs, assault, sexual assault, academic problems, and even death from alcohol-related accidents. Before drinking creates these problems for you, our  Lake Worth, Florida, alcohol rehab can help you quit. 

Rehab for College Students 

If you’re a college student struggling with addiction or mental illness or know someone who is, Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches is here for you. Call us today at 561-220-3981 to get started.  



  1. NIH – College Drinking 
  1. SAMHSA – Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health 
  1. ScienceDirectTrends in college student mental health and help-seeking by race/ethnicity: Findings from the national healthy minds study, 2013–2021 
  1. NCBI – Mental Health of College Students and Their Non-college-attending Peers: Results from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions 
  1. AUCCCD – The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey 


Related Reading:  

Most Common Mental Health Disorders in College Students 

Must-Read Books About Eating Disorders 

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