Influential factors in college drinking

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

What influences students’ college drinking decisions?

  • Do friends peer pressure them?
  • Do they do it because they are bored?
  • Do they drink to relieve depression or anxiety?

Researchers recently tried to answer these questions by surveying college students…

65% of the participants reported having at least one drink in the past three months. It was astonishing that the typical number of drinks in a week was 10.5 and on a weekend was 7.3 average drinks. These numbers included drinkers and nondrinkers and was the average (meaning around half the people had more drinks as those had less). This indicates that college drinking is far more extreme than drinking happening outside of the college setting.

3 main influential factors for someone’s decisions in college drinking and to what extent:

  • If their close friends were drinking,
  • How drunk they thought they were, and
  • Their drinking intentions.

Interestingly enough, the more students thought others on their campus approved of drinking, the less they tended to drink. We recently reported similar misconceptions about students, their peers and marijuana use. Typically, if people intend to get drunk they use less protective factors (see here for a previous post about these) such as pacing or eating or keeping track of what they were drinking. Friends’ drinking was the best predictor of drinking habits in all cases.

You can tell a lot about a person by watching their friends, so watch who you surround yourself with. Those who think favorably of drinking tend to think they can drink more before reaching intoxication and also tend to hang out with others who do the same. However, these people are the ones that need the most intervention yet are the most difficult to change.

Those who socialize with a wide variety of people typically are lighter drinkers and tend to respond better to treatment immediately as well as have fewer problems further down the line. The heavier drinkers benefit more from motivational interventions focusing on their attitudes toward drinking.

Regardless of stereotypes, ethnicity, weight and gender did have an effect on any of these findings. It was peoples’ closest friends that were the most significant factor in influencing all aspects of college drinking.

Citation:
Examining the Unique Influence of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Drinking Perceptions on Alcohol Consumption among College Students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Volume 70, 2, March 2009

Alcohol, sleep, and school work: College drinking and GPA

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

We all know that college students often party and sleep more than they actually study.  But do heavy alcohol use and poor sleep patterns cause poor grades?

A recently published study found that just altering bed times by 2 hours can throw off your sleepiness during the day.  Most students in the study did show a 2-4 hour difference in daily bed times between weekdays and the weekend, and most went to bed after midnight.

The average number of drinks for participants came in around 6 drinks a night (equal for men and women).

The big question is: can these heavy drinkers in college still perform well academically? (See here for influential factors in college drinking)

No matter what the cause, insufficient sleep causes poor academic consequences.  Interestingly, those students who reported much more sleep also had lower GPAs (oversleep was mostly assumed, by the researchers, to be caused by drinking and staying up too late, though it could have been due to other issues such as depression).

Overall, those that drank more often went to sleep later and also had bigger gaps between weekday and weekend bedtimes, all of which correlated very highly with a lower GPA.

Citation:

Singleton, Wolfson (2009). Alcohol Consumption, Sleep And Academic Performance Among College Students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 70, 355-363)

College drinking and frats – A match made in alcohol heaven?

contributing author: Gacia Tachejian

animal-houseIf you asked college students in America what goes on at a Fraternity or Sorority party they would tell you that drinking alcohol is a major component. The movie Animal House made heavy college drinking a well known fact decades ago, and research backs it up.

Studies have consistently shown that the highest rates of heavy alcohol use and alcohol disorders occur in the college-age population. But who’s to blame? Although heavy alcohol use has been documented within Greek organizations, the question of whether the Greek environment fosters substance use or whether heavy substance users chose to be in Greek environments has not been researched until now.

In order to find out whether the Frats/Sororities were the main influence for heavy alcohol use or if individuals joining the Greek organizations were simply heavier alcohol abusers researchers recently collected data from 3,720 pre-college students who were then followed for the 4 years of college they enrolled in (talk about a lot of work).

Of the almost 4000 participants there were students who joined the Greek environment and those who didn’t. Also, there were students who were late joiners and students who joined but withdrew before they graduated. After looking at all the different categories, one thing was apparent:

Students, who at any given period were part of a fraternity or a sorority, drank more alcohol and had more negative, alcohol-related consequences while being a member of a Greek organization. Also, once they deactivated, those participants drank less and had less drinking-related consequences.

The real issue as to why this is so important has to do with the consequences of alcohol use. Problems like drinking and driving (and possible DUI arrests), alcohol abuse, alcohol poisoning, and violence are a serious problem among college students. Apparently, Greek Environments make these consequences more likely.

It’s important to note: If the only finding her was that participants in the Greek system drank more alcohol or were more likely to drink alcohol at all that would be one thing (this findings was also true here by the way), but the fact that they were also more likely to have negative consequences associated with their drinking suggests that interventions might be useful within this college-environment.

Something to think about next time you’re bored on a Thursday night…

Citation:

Park, Aesoon, Sher, J., Kenneth, S., & Krull, L., Jennifer (2008) Risky Drinking in College Changes as Fraternity/Sorority Affiliation Changes: A Person – Environment Perspective. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Vol. 22, No. 2, 219-229.

About Addiction: Heroin, Alcohol, Smoking, and Coffee

New, interesting, informative articles about addiction to heroin, alcohol, smoking, and coffee drinking . We have some new sites with links listed here. Give us your feedback on what you like!

Heroin and opiate addiction

Cesar Fax: The number of admissions to state-funded substance abuse treatment facilities citing opiates other than heroin as substance of abuse continues to increase. Admissions for the abuse of opiates, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine, have increased from 1.2% in 1998 to 5.9% in 2008.

Alcohol Abuse and related issues

University of Maryland: Heavy drinking among college students, and alcohol-impaired driving, are major public health issues. Alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors increase significantly when college students reach age 21, especially for male drivers.

The Journal of Early Adolescence: Family meals are associated with reductions in alcohol and tobacco consumption in girls. Apparently, the family that eats together has girls that drink and smoke less!

Chicago Tribune: A new state law will requires stores to check a photo ID for anyone purchasing alcohol. This law will apply to liquor stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and supermarkets in Indiana, but not to restaurants or  bars.

Science Daily: Excessive drinking is responsible for approximately 79,000 deaths annually in the United States. Binge drinking accounts for more than half of these deaths.

Smoking cigarettes and health

USA Today: There will be a ban against using words such as “light” or “mild” on cigarette labels and ads. Now, tobacco companies have lightened package colors to convey the same message.

ABC news: In 2005, there were just 18 smoke-free colleges. Today, there are 394 smoke-free colleges. This number seems to continuously grow.

Health Day: Secondhand smoke may now be tied to an increase in mental woes. Exposure to secondhand smoke could up the odds for psychological distress, depression, schizophrenia and delirium.

Boston.com: An estimated 40 percent of Connecticut’s Medicaid recipients smoke. The state pays about $507 million yearly for smoking-related health care for its Medicaid clients.

Health Day: Increasing cigarette taxes can cause smoking rates to go down among people struggling with alcohol, drug or mental disorders. Raising the price of cigarettes by just 10 percent could cause more than an 18 percent drop in smoking among these individuals.

Alcohol, Smoking, and Coffee

Health Day: Alcohol, smoking and coffee drinking is linked to higher rates of migraine and tension headaches among teens and young adults. Around 5 to 15 percent of high school students reported suffering from migraines, and 15 to 25 percent reported that they have tension headaches.

About Addiction: Smoking, drinking and Heroin

Some great, informative articles about addiction, alcohol and smoking, as well as some about Heroin.  We also have some new sites with links listed here so give us your feedback on what you like!

Alcohol

Caron Chit Chat: According to a world renowned addiction treatment center, the female problem drinker in Dallas is most likely between the ages of 25-39, single, prefers wine and beer to hard liquor, drinks more with her girlfriends than on a date or with work colleagues and may not sleep well.

PhysOrg.com: Binge drinking can cause long lasting damage to an important area in the brains of adolescent monkeys, suggesting that binge drinking could have serious effects on memory formation in adolescents.

HealthDay: One in five college students admitted to drunk driving. Additionally, more than 40% of twenty year old adolescents rode in a car with an intoxicated driver.

Medical News Today: Young people in the two years after high school who are in romantic relationships are less likely than their peers to report heavy drinking and marijuana use. Marriage lowers the odds that people will get drunk frequently or smoke pot.

HealthDay: As teens become adults, their tendency toward impulsive behaviors decreases as well as the amount of alcohol they consume. Teenagers tend to mature as they get older as well as drink less alcohol.

SAMHSA: Around 508,000 adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States drink alcohol; 641,000 use illicit drugs; and more than 1 million smoke cigarettes on any average day. This data was conducted in a national survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Heroin

The Sydney Morning Herald: Heroin users regularly land in hospitals, and heroin use is often fatal. This study traced all hospital admissions of a group of heroin users over 10 years, to mid 2004.

REUTERS: According to the National Institute on  Drug Abuse, around 3.7 million people in the US have used heroin sometime in their lives. Prescription heroin may help addicts to stay off street drugs.

Smoking

PhysOrg.com: Increasing cigarette taxes could be an effective way to reduce smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or people with mental disorders. A ten percent increase in cigarette pricing resulted in an eighteen percent decline in smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or individuals with mental disorder.

REUTERS: Tobacco companies and retailers say in a lawsuit that anti-smoking signs in New York City showing a decaying tooth, diseased lungs and a damaged brain violate cigarette vendors’ free speech and should be removed.

About Addiction: Basics, Smoking and drugs

Whether you are interested in addiction as a whole or specific drugs, we have it all here.  Read on for some interesting breaking news and informative articles.

Addiction Basics

Addiction in Recovery: Alcohol and drugs are not the only addictions looming over US college students heads. This article reveals that cut off from the Internet, social media, cell phones and devices like iPods and TVs, students experience agitation, aggression, slight depression and a sudden overabundance of time.

PRLog: Some basic addiction statistics.  In 2001 almost thirty percent of kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen reported using drugs.

Smoking

Medical News Today: This article discusses a study which found that Arizona’s smoking ban reduced hospital visits.  Since the 2007 state law took effect, admissions for ailments related to secondhand smoke have declined by as much as 33 percent.

Health Today: A new study found that Americans could suffer 18,000 fewer attacks per year, save millions in health costs if all states banned smoking in restaurants, offices and other public spaces nationwide.

Medical News Today: The medical marijuana boom is always a prevalent topic. According to this article, fourteen states in the US plus the District of Columbia have passed laws intended to give certain ill people legal access to medical marijuana.

Other Drugs

Harm Reduction Journal: This is about a case study examining the closure of a large urban fixed site needle exchange in Canada. The article concludes that closing the fixed site needle exchange had an adverse effect on already vulnerable clients and reduced access to effective comprehensive harm reduction services.

AP News Break: The investment and crackdown of drug war in Mexico have failed to halt drug-related violence, which has killed 23,000 Mexicans in the past three years, or the availability of drugs in the U.S. marketplace, the world’s biggest. Obama said Tuesday that he would send as many as 1,200 National Guard troops back to the US- Mexico boarder to help battle illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

Science Daily: Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital have produced the first evidence that the opioid blocker extended-release injectable naltrexone (XR-NTX) is able to reduce the brain’s response to cues that may cause alcoholics to relapse.

College students and binge drinking

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that brings an individual’s BAC (blood alcohol content) above .08 (the legal limit in most states). This equates to approximately 4-5 drinks for a man or 3-4 drinks for a woman within a 2 hour period.

In case some of you forgot, one drink is approximately a 1.5 oz shot OR 5 oz. of wine OR 12 oz. of beer.

College binge drinking norms

College students are one population in which binge drinking is prevalent. Prior to 18 years of age, students who end up not attending any college are most at risk for binge drinking. However, after 18 (the age when most people graduate from high school), students who attend a 4 year university become the population most at risk to binge.

So what is it about going to college that makes people want to drink more?

One important factor to consider is the way we portray college in the media. Television shows and movies often show binge drinking as the “normal” way college students consume alcohol (think beer bongs). This gives students unrealistic ideas of how much the average college students drinks. In fact, when asked how much most students drink in a typical drinking situation, students consistently overestimate how much their peers drink. This false norm creates an atmosphere where people are pressured to drink more than they normally would on their own.

The long-term consequences of binge drinking

Aside from the obvious impact of heavy drinking on health, binge drinking can lead to other very unpleasant outcomes. Among college students, students that drink heavily report higher incidences of regretted sex, sexual assault, riding with a drunk driver, loss of consciousness, and going to class hungover compared to those that drink moderately.

What can parents do?

Research has shown that parents continue to influence the choices their children make long after they leave for college. Parents can decrease the chances that their children will develop problematic drinking behaviors by doing two things: monitoring and modeling. Monitoring consists of asking a child where they are, what they are doing, and who they are interacting with. Modeling consists of setting a good example, communicating expectations, and transmitting values.

By remaining involved in their child’s life, parents may also indirectly influence who their child becomes friends with, which in turn influences their drinking behavior.

Citation:

Timberlake et. al (2007) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Abar. C, Turrisi, R. (2008) How important are parents during the college years? A longitudinal perspective of indirect influences parents yield on their college teens’ alcohol use