Predicting Whether College Drinking Will Turn Into Adult Alcohol Abuse
Heavy drinking during college is a popular pastime. Many parents worry when they suspect that their college freshman is participating in the college party scene, but in many cases, the students phase out of the party life as they exit college and take on adult responsibilities.
However, for some college students, practices are established in college that do not fade when graduation is over. By this time, a dangerous addiction to alcohol is well-established.
A study will be published in the January 2012 edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research that examines which undergraduates are at risk for heavy drinking. The study employed criteria used to assess alcohol use disorder and binge drinking as identifiers.
A national survey of college students found that approximately 6 percent could be designated as alcohol dependent and 31 percent were found to be engaged in alcohol abuse. While many students give up the behaviors as they enter adulthood, the researchers wanted to find out which students might go on to experience serious alcohol-related problems.
Corresponding author of the study, Cheryl L. Beseler, is a researcher at Colorado State University. Beseler explains that while it has not been understood why some undergraduates go on to be adult problem drinkers, the researchers suspect that genetic and personality factors, including the way these two factors interact, are likely a big part of the picture. The study examined personality factors as well as family history.
The researchers used data from an online survey conducted anonymously among 361 undergraduates, of which 265 were female. The survey included criteria from the DSM-IV to determine alcohol dependence and items to determine drinking patterns as well as personality factors.
Beseler reports that the researchers found two groups of students who tended to drink heavily. One group said that they typically drank to feel more impulsive, better and more aggressive at a higher rate than the other group.
Statistical analysis reveals a continuum of problems with alcohol use. Students with more significant problems were shown to be higher on risk factors that are generally associated with alcohol-related problems.
If a student is known to drink to make a situation more fun, to increase impulsivity or has a history of aggression, it may be a sign that caution is necessary when drinking. If a parent suspects these factors in their own child, they should be aware of the risk of the development of problematic drinking as a result of college partying.