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Patterns of Alcohol and Drug Use

What are the patterns of alcohol and drug use among college students and how do they relate to demographic and social factors.

In this paper I will discuss the patterns of alcohol and drug use of college students and how do they relate to demographic and social factors. This will be based on a survey done in a college and also based on the report from NSDUH 2006 report, Virginia’s College student article by Anderson, D.S and from journal articles and books regarding this important social issue in US.

According to NSDUH report 2006 from 2002 to 2005 in past month alcohol
Usage by 18 to 20 year adult is steady. An annual average of 57.8% of young adults aged 15-20 year old adults taking alcohol in the past month from 2002-2005. As well it found that the male full-time students took alcohol in the past month from 2002-2005 compared to the female full-time students. (60.4 Vs 55.6 percent). In addition the above report also found that in the past month with increasing age the alcohol intake increased from age 18 to age 20. This report also found that students living with parents, grand parents and relatives are less likely to consume alcohol in the past month in 2006 compared to students who are not living with their families or their relatives. This indicates to some extent the demographic variable of age and gender has some relationship in college student use of alcohol intake or likelihood of taking alcohol.

In addition the NSDUH Report 2006 also highlighted the binge drinking which it defines binge drinking as one who takes a high volume of alcohol which puts the drinker at increased risk of alcohol-related problems and who is also a danger to other and have secondary effects. In its report it found that binge drinking of alcohol by college students aged 18 to 20 year olds from 2002-2005 in the past month is steady through the period and with an annual average of 40.1 % involved in binge alcohol usage. In addition it found that within this group of binge drinkers males were more likely to take part in binge drinking compare to females (46.9 Vs 34.4 percent). The rates of alcohol also increased with age for these binge drinkers from age 18 to age 20. As well full-time students who live with parents, grand parents and with relatives have been found less likely to engage in binge drinking compared to who do not live with their parents, grand parents and with relatives. (34.0 Vs 48.5 percent).

This indicates that there is a relationship between binge drinking of young adults in colleges and with demographic variables such as age and gender. That is the binge drinking varies with age and gender and with the family connections and whether they live with parents and their relatives.

The same applies to heavy drinking of alcohol by college students. The trend indicates from 2002 to 2005 the heavy drinking is steady, However the males are more likely to be involved in heavy drinking compared to females on an annual average basis. In addition the report found that the likelihood of heavy alcohol use is reduced when they live with parents, grand parents and with parental relatives. That is the general alcohol use of adult 18 to 20 year old adults in college is related to gender, age and whether they live with their parents, grand parents and with parental relatives. The same applies to binge drinking and heavy drinking. There fore based on this report it is certain there is relationship with demographic variable such as age, gender and whether they live with family and family relationships and the college students alcohol drinking pattern in the category of normal alcohol drinking, binge drinking or heavy drinking.

According to an article by Anderson ,D.S (2001) it highlights that alcohol and drug use of college students have changed over the past decade. However it has concern and expressed concern of heavy alcohol use by college students and drug usage by college students after the college administration has taken so many strategies to reduce alcohol and drug use by college students. For example it highlights the substance usage within 30 days as a measure of regular usage it says that in 1980 81. 8% of college students consumed alcohol compared to 69.6% in 1999.

This is reduction of alcohol consumption by college students on the basis of the above measure. In addition it also has highlighted that on the basis of consumptions of five or more drinks at least once in two previous two weeks the rate was 43.9% in 1980 compared to 40% in 1999. As well it also indicates that the rate on the above basis of five or more drinks at least once in two previous weeks the rate was 42-44 percent over a decade and then it came down in five year period ended in 1996 to 38,3 %.

This indicates relative resistance to change the behavior of alcohol usage by college students. It also express concern even though the student percentage drinking alcohol is much less compared to earlier periods it is worried that the proportion of heavy drinking is increasing within the students who drink alcohol.

In this article the reasons college students drink alcohol and heavy drinking is related to many factors. According to his students drink alcohol because of their youthful feeling of immunity or invulnerability, peer group pressure, stress of college life, transition to home environment to college, family environment and their alcohol consumption and attitudes regarding alcohol intake, perception by students that other take more than they consume alcohol then they do, developmental needs the students address by taking alcohol and other drugs. This indicates there are several reasons why students consume alcohol in colleges
And it may be due to family, perceptions f students, peer group pressure, situational factors and stress factors, age, gender and developmental needs they address by taking alcohol or drugs and they may differ from one student to the next because of individual differences in terms of attitudes, vales, beliefs and life style.

In an article by Weitzman, E. R. (2004) ” Social Developmental Overview of having Episodic or Binge Drinking Among US College Students” highlights that college students drink heavily compared to non-college attending peers. It also has mentioned that college students are mostly prone to mental health and behavioral problems including alcohol problem.

This article also points that 44% of college students binge drink. That is men drink five or more in a row and females drink four more drink in a row within a two-week period. This article also has pointed that young adults come to campus with social demographic, family with drinking habits and states that 10% of students growing up with parents who drinks. It also points to the fact that some students with this background some abstain from drinking in college some binge drink in college. As well this article also stresses that students peers, affiliations, normative surrounds and living context influence students alcohol consumption and harm.

It also states that binge-drinking rates are more among athletes and sports students. According to this article also states that binge drinking exists in fraternity and sorority members and highly social students.

However this article also states that female, racial/ethnic minority, religious, married old and non-traditional students consume less alcohol when they are in college. In addition this article identifies that peer norms, activities, and patterns of social connection and activity correlate with binge drinking.

In an article by Maggs, J. L ” Trajectories of Alcohol use During Transition to Adult hood” heavy drinking can be predictive if college students are living with parents who have heavy drinking, greater symptoms of alcoholism or ant-social personality, degree to which the adults having a positive expectancies alcohol effect, their thinking whether it is right to think drunk to cope with stressful situations, personal characteristics, involvement in social institutions, peer group influence, young adults who drink for higher sensation personalities, low-self esteem and self-efficacy, less religious, poor performance in class, peer influence on alcohol use, less resilience to per group pressure.

If these are the factors are applicable to an adult then the young adults have more propensity to drink heavily in college.

Baer, J.S. in an article ” Student failures” highlights that genetic factors play a lesser role in young adults of alcohol use because their parents biologically are heavy drinkers and they have the genes so that inevitably they who will become heavy drinkers and must abstain from alcohol. The author of the article says the research on alcoholism does not support this view and several factors determine whether a person will become a problem drinker in college. However the author asserts that increased drinking behavior of parents and their general behavior have some association with college drinking of students of young age.

This shows how family environment and the parents behavior affects young children tendency to take alcohol when they attend college as they become freer to experiment new things and have the opportunity to do so without any control in their behavior. It also suggests that if parents are excessively authoritative in their relationship with their children they may have tendency to embark of drinking heavily when they attend college later in their life. There fore the parental relationship and their behavior towards their children as mentioned above may have an impact on young adults to learn heavy alcohol drinking habits later in life.

Interviews taken by San Francisco State Univ. students about their drug and alcohol use of 14 students shows different inclination to take alcohol as well they mostly are not affected by advertisement to take alcohol in campus. It also shows that some students if they are in a family back round where parents take alcohol they used to take alcohol before they come to college and they tend to continue that behavior in college. As well their peers than others affect some students and some drink alcohol because of their friends and some drink because they want some sensation. These interviews reveal the complexity and individual differences in taking alcohol and some become heavy drinkers but others only infrequently at the same level and some may drink more because of their affiliations and the motives of their drinking in campus.

In an article “Substance abuse” edited by Rivers, P, C & Shore, E.R. (1997) states that alcohol and drugs in US heavily affect young adults and adolescence. As well this article points that substantial proportion of adults and adolescence uses drugs and alcohol to the extent they suffer from health consequences and poor performance in class.

It also states that alcohol and drug use in campus is a complex issue. According to this article drug and alcohol problems in young adults are due to behavioral, cognitive and psychological as determinants of alcohol and drug use by adults. Drug and alcohol problems in college are not biological alone and it is due to multivariate factors affecting young adults to take different paths in alcohol and drug use in colleges. This article also emphasizes on the personality factors, which to some extent affect their alcohol taking behavior in colleges, and this explains to some extent why some drink heavily and others don’t in the colleges and peer group pressure as an important variable affecting some students than others in the college environment.

In an article “Teen-Age Alcoholism” by Haskins (1976) the author points that if one asks a young adult why you take alcohol they will respond to this question by answering that he or she drinks alcohol because they feel good or they may respond to this question or they may answer that they drink alcohol because of parental influences and societal influences or for sociability reasons or they may answer that they drink because they have serious emotional problems or for stress related reasons.

In this article as alcohol is integral part of societies attitudes and sociability in every day life young adults are exposed to alcohol early in their age in most western culture the young start drinking because of this reason. It also stresses in the article the impact of advertisement, parental attitudes and behavior, peer group pressure in society in general, customs on the drinking habits and drinking behavior of young adults and teenagers. There fore this article portrays that the social factors have some association to young adult drinking behavior
And social factors as an important variable associated with adult drinking behavior in general.


As discussed above drugs and alcohol use by young adults in colleges is a complex issue. There are many factors in varying degrees affect individuals to take alcohol in college. As well the alcohol taking behavior is resilient even after some measures are taken to reduce the negative impact on students health and their well-being and to reduce anti-social behavior in colleges and also outside college. In addition it is clear binge drinking and heavy drinking and heavy drinking is a serious issue socially and economically to US today as the percentage of heavy drinking is considerable in colleges. The above discussion also shows the drinking of alcohol starts for many college students before thy attend colleges.

As well the college environment and availability of alcohol and the role alcohol plays in social functions is an important factor for some student groups to become heavy drinkers depending on their motives for drinking and their norms as well as their activities and types peer groups they belong and their religious back ground.

The above also indicate that age, gender differences, ethnicity/ race, to some extent related to alcohol drinking behavior in colleges. For example some researchers have found that minority groups of college students drink less compared to other student groups as well females drinking rates are less compared to men drinking rates in colleges in addition when age increase from 18-20 normal drinking, and binge drinking increase with age.

In addition social factors are also affecting students to start drinking earlier as alcohol plays an important role in sociability in western cultures and young adults and teenagers take alcohol in an early age and also they take alcohol to be part of a peer group.

In a college environment the alcohol drinking behavior whether it is infrequent, moderate, binge or heavy drinking depends on several factors and different factors impact differently on different student groups. The major factors related with college drinking behavior are peer group pressure, activities students pursue, type of peer groups the students belong.

Involvement in institutional activities, whether they play sports or take part in any athletic activities in college, age, gender, religion, socio-economic factors, family background in terms of their relationship and control methods of students when they are living with them. Social factors such as social norms and sociability and the role alcohol plays in social situations, resilience of young adults to peer pressure, alcohol availability within colleges. Rules and regulations regarding taking alcohol and drugs and information regarding the negative effects of alcohol and counseling services, personal characteristics and personality of students, reasons for drinking alcohol, whether they live with their parents or their parental relatives, advertisement about alcohol.

This explains the multiplicity of factors related to drinking alcohol positively and negatively and there fore affects drinking alcohol and drug use patterns in colleges and why it is difficult to control problem-drinking students in colleges.

However informed with this complexity by adopting different strategies for different students groups within colleges may able to minimize the percentage of students drinking heavily and binge drinking, by colleges, parents, community groups, counseling services, government agencies providing services for problem-drinkers, advertising of alcohol, restricting access to alcohol to young adults in colleges and in society in general and encouraging responsible behavior of young adults in colleges and is society in general, educating parents about the negative impact of alcohol and improving skills of parenting.

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