How to Stay Sober in College
For many young adults, alcohol is part of the “college experience.” This attitude creates a challenge for those students in recovery or who otherwise prefer not to drink.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for staying sober in college.
Risks of Excessive Alcohol Use
Many people may think of parties and binge drinking as a rite of passage, but alcohol use and misuse have a variety of health and safety risks.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol consumption can contribute to problems that include:
- Injuries, including falls, vehicle collisions, and accidental death
- Risky behaviors, including unprotected sex, which can lead to unintended pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases
- Violence, including homicide and sexual assault
- Alcohol poisoning from high blood alcohol levels
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that alcohol is often a “contributing factor” in sexual assault cases on college campuses. About half of sexual assault cases on college campuses have involved alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both.
Continued excessive alcohol use also can lead to more long-term health issues, such as:
- Alcohol dependency
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Increased risk of various cancers
- Learning and memory issues
- Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety
- Reduced productivity and unemployment
How much drinking is too much?
Standard U.S. drinks are usually defined as:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor
Consuming 4 or more drinks in a single occasion (for women) or 5 or more drinks during a single occasion (for men) is considered binge drinking. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week (for women) or 15 or more drinks per week (for men).
Tips for avoiding alcohol in college
- Ask your school if there are “sober” residence options for people who do not want to drink. Consider seeking off-campus housing with roommates who prefer not to drink.
- If you’re in recovery from alcohol misuse, look for school or community-based recovery programs. Find a sponsor near your college.
- Consider applying to a school that is part of the Association for Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE).
- Seek out sober activities: a part-time job, musical or art groups, an exercise group, or tutoring.
- Maintain other healthy habits. Get regular exercise and avoid sugary or fatty foods. Drink plenty of water. Consume whole grains, lean meats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Practice saying no when offered alcohol. Being prepared can help you stay firm in your decision not to drink.
Stay safe at parties
Want to attend college parties even without drinking? Follow these tips to stay safe and sober:
- Tell your roommate or RA where you will be.
- Fully charge your phone before you go.
- Stay with at least one other person.
- Don’t accept a ride from strangers.
- Keep an eye on your drink at all times.
- Never accept an open drink from anyone you don’t know and trust.
You don’t need to consume alcohol to get the most out of college. Follow these steps for a safe, sober, and memorable experience.