Drinking socially or borderline alcoholics?


Whether you are having a few drinks with friends to celebrate a birthday or going out to the bar for a beer or two after work, it seems that a big part of students’ social lives involve alcohol.

Hey, bring on the drinks. After all, it is just harmless fun, right? Most adults who socially drink alcohol are drinking for the primary purpose of just that – socializing.

Jessica Long, a third-year industrial engineering student from Tampa, can attest to drinking on occasion.

“When I’m going out about once every two weeks, I’ll drink for special occasions or someone’s birthday,” Long said. “Me and my friends will usually have a few drinks to celebrate or to take a load off after a long week.”

However, binge drinking is also common in these settings. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is a common pattern of excessive alcohol use, typically when one consumes five or more drinks on one occasion.

But can this lifestyle have long-term effects or even lead to alcoholism in the future?

Quantina Washington, assistant director of Clinical Programs in the Office of Counseling Services, believes the possibility of alcoholism varies on the individual.

“It depends on the person and a number of factors, including tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and the effects or consequences of alcohol on their life,” Washington said. “A person who is a binge drinker is abusing alcohol, and alcoholism begins with alcohol abuse.”

National surveys show that the proportion of drinkers who binge is highest among young adults 18 to 20. Most students can identify with drinking on a “binge” because of the great deal of peer pressure.

“When I came to college, it was more of a mixture of curiosity and peer pressure that started me to drink,” Long said. “I basically came from a sheltered life, so when I came to college, there were house parties and 18 and up clubs, and before I knew it, I was drinking all of the time.”

Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent, and because there is no form of habit, people will consume more than what the body is capable of holding. The Centers for Disease Control said that about 75 percent of the alcohol consumed by adults in the U.S. is in the form of binge drinking.

Unlike chronic drinking, binge drinking is less addictive but can still be problematic. According to the CDC, health problems can include alcohol poisoning, liver disease, sexual dysfunction and even neurological damage if binge drinking becomes a regular practice.

Students who want to monitor their drinking patterns have the luxury of visiting the counseling services website and using the Alcohol e-CheckUpToGo. This web survey allows students to enter their demographic information, family history and drinking habits. Students can receive calculated feedback on their patterns of drinking compared to other college students, locally and nationally.

“The purpose of the Alcohol e-CheckUp is to increase students’ awareness regarding the effects alcohol is having on various areas of their lives, including academics, relationships, finances and safety,” Washington said. “The goal is to increase students’ motivation to change unhealthy behaviors.”


For those seeking help about binge drinking, call 1-800-521-7128 or visit allaboutcounseling.com.