Alcohol 101 – the Best Class on Campus

Alcohol use by underage college students has increasingly grown as a large issue across the United States. Excessive, or binge drinking among college students is associated with a variety of negative consequences, such as a decrease in academic productivity, unwanted sexual encounters and an increase in violent behavior.

Many colleges have made an attempt to examine the root cause of such extreme drinking by students, and have developed programs to deter students from consuming alcohol. These programs have traditionally included education and counseling to increase the student’s awareness and knowledge regarding consequences of heavy drinking. These programs have been found to show little impact on student’s overall alcohol consumption. Alternate attempts to curb drinking on college campuses have been designed to alter the environmental, psychosocial causes for drinking among college age students as an attempt to reshape attitudes and social norms regarding alcohol consumption.

AlcoholThe concept that student perceptions of campus drinking norms will directly influence an individual’s decision of how much to drink has been the focus for the trend to reshape these social norms. The notion that others drink excessively may cause students to feel justified and pressured to consume more alcohol than they would if lead to believe that their peers drank more moderately.

Anti-drinking campaigns including newspaper advertisements and flyers have attempted to reshape the concept of drinking by pushing the idea that most college students do not drink in excessive amounts. Certain slogans such as “4 or More and You Won’t Score” are used to express that excessive drinking (4 or more drinks) is not “cool.”

Studies have shown that a variety of factors including a party-like atmosphere and having school friends present during a social event will increase the likelihood that alcohol will be consumed in large quantities. These factors are unlikely to be altered by flyer’s and newspaper advertisements. Pressure to conform to social norms of college drinking does seem to be a contributing factor to the consumption of alcohol on college campuses, but is not the sole reason college age students drink excessively.

Perhaps the main motivation for why college students consume alcohol is to escape from reality, release stress and relax in a social setting. These factors are key in understanding why alcohol consumption is at an all time high among college age students, regardless of attempts by college campuses to reshape student attitudes.

Programs that focus upon constructive methods of relieving stress and encouraging students to find healthy alternatives to partying could be more effective in reducing alcohol use on college campuses. Posting flyer’s and newspaper advertisements focusing on alternatives to partying would be more helpful than pressuring students to stop drinking by deeming it “uncool.”


John Clapp, Audrey Shillington (2001). ENVIRONMENTAL PREDICTORS OF HEAVY EPISODIC DRINKING The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 27 (2), 301-313 DOI: 10.1081/ADA-100103711

T OEI, C JARDIM (2007). Alcohol expectancies, drinking refusal self-efficacy and drinking behaviour in Asian and Australian students Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 87 (2-3), 281-287 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2006.08.019

Sabrina Behrens, MA

Sabrina Behrens, MA, is a freelance writer and psychotherapist. She holds a BA in English from UCLA and a MA in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. She spends her free time reading, writing, baking and spending time with her family.
See All Posts By The Author