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Alcohol Use on Campus

Drinking Patterns on Campus

Drinking patterns often change when students arrive on campus. As noted before, more than 40 percent of high school seniors said they drank within the past 30 days. Among college students nationally, that number increases to 69 percent. (See 2009-2011 CORE Alcohol and Drug survey results [PDF])

High Risk Drinking 2011 CORE Study Results

The national survey results from CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey (2011) provides data on the prevalence of alcohol use among college students:

According to data collected in the 2011 CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey, 81.4% of college students nationally consumed at least one drink within the past 30 days, and 44.8% reported binge drinking within the past 30 days. Minnesota rates are somewhat lower, measured with 63.2 percent drinking and 25.1 percent binge drinking within the past 30 days. This also means that more than one third of students are choosing not to drink and three-fourths are choosing not to binge drink. Still, by many parents' standards, students are consuming a significant amount of alcohol each week.

Warning Signs

Indications of alcohol abuse may include any of the following (see for more information):

Physical: fatigue, sleep problems, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, and a lasting cough
Emotional: personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression, withdrawal, and a general lack of interest
Family: starting arguments, breaking rules, or withdrawing from the family
School: decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy, and discipline problems
Social/Behavioral: peer group involved with drugs and alcohol, problems with the law, dramatic change in dress and appearance

One symptom of drinking, or a one-time lapse, may not be a sign of abuse. Multiple warning signs are an indication of a problem.


Fill out the Blood Alcohol Estimator for yourself.

Making Choices

Although students are drinking, most give some significant thought to their decisions to "party." The messages they have heard throughout their lives, at home and at school, have had an effect. When asked "What is most important to you in deciding whether or not to drink?" students respond that they think about their safety, who they're with, and how it might affect them the next day.

While students may make an informed decision to have a drink or two, they still face the risk that subsequent decisions may be irrational. Intoxication is a process, and the more they drink, the more their judgment becomes impaired. For example, in a sober state of mind, it would be an obvious choice to not leave a party with a stranger, but under the influence, that might seem safer than walking home alone.

As their level of drinking increases, students become more likely to underestimate their intoxication.

Getting Alcohol

Since the legal age for consuming and purchasing alcohol is 21, many parents ask how students obtain alcohol. Typically, when underage students go to a house party near campus, older students have purchased the alcohol. It's not uncommon for party hosts to charge a set price - often $5 - for a cup that the guests can refill from a keg or punch bowl as often as they like. There is also a market among underage students for false IDs. Penalties for providing alcohol to minors can be severe. Although there are penalties for possession of fake IDs, in many cases, bar owners or liquor store clerks simply take possession of the ID.