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College: A Risky Time for Polydrug Use and Binge Drinking

College drinking has been a continuous health concern over the years. With an increase of media and advertisements promoting the party scene, other drugs besides alcohol have entered the college scene at a substantial rate. Under the influence of a drug, many feel comfortable taking more risks and may engage in polydrug use and binge drinking as a result. This type of behavior increases their risk for many other dangerous possibilities.

Increased risks of engaging in binge drinking and polydrug use are:

  • Physical injuries
  • Car accidents, possibly fatal
  • Assault
  • Detrimental and excessive spending
  • High-risk sexual behavior
  • Sexual victimization

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as men having five or more drinks within a two-hour timeframe while for women, it is having four or more drinks within a two-hour period. However, size and tolerance play an important factor. If a female weighs 100 pounds and drinks the same as a female weighing 130 pounds, the 100-pound female will get drunk relatively faster.

Can Binge Drinking Lead to Other Drug Use?

Drinking calms the nervous system, impairing judgement and bringing about an overload of confidence that often results in rash decision-making and risky behavior. For these reasons, alcohol often creates a higher chance of trying new and other more dangerous drugs. Because binge drinking leads to the greatest amount of intoxication in the shortest amount of time, it is also the most closely associated with risky behavior such as drug use.

CASA (2007) found that between 1993 and 2005 the percent of college students using any illicit drug in the past year increased from 30.6% to 36.6%, with cocaine and ecstasy use increasing the most.

Studies show increases of marijuana and other illicit drug use parallel to binge drinking patterns among college students. This goes to show that there is a relative pattern of drug use amongst alcohol abuse in this age group, signifying one might be causation of another.
There have also been reports that binge drinkers are more likely to engage in and report use of other drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and amphetamines.

“Current binge drinkers were more likely than nonbinge drinkers to use cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drugs.”

Many studies have proven the correlation between polydrug use and binge drinking, but what are the side effects and risks associated with intense drug use? These activities have been shown to put polydrug users at risk for…

• Smoking more often (increasing chances of cancer)
• Engaging in unprotected sex (increasing chances of pregnancy)
• Becoming injured due to actions resulting from intoxication.

How Does the Trend of Drinking Begin?

College is the time peer pressure to engage in dangerous activities such as binge drinking and polydrug use is highest for most. Does all this activity start here, however? Research shows that students who are known to be heavier drinkers (drinking more drinks and more often than others) did not start in college. Many are already used to drinking alcohol from high school, or even middle school. Their bodies have built up a tolerance, therefore allowing them to drink stronger drinks more often.

What Are the Results of Binge Drinking and Polydrug Use?

Mixing drugs, especially with alcohol, can cause toxic reactions to the body and mind. One might overdose the first time they try a drug if it mixed with another substance.

For example, alcohol mixed with Xanax is especially danger. Mixing these two substances together will produce an effect known as an additive effect which doubles the effect of the two substances. Xanax reduces the feelings of alcohol, making it nearly impossible to know how drunk you really are, making one drink turn to two and two drinks turn to four in the blink of an eye. It is unpredictable whether your body can absorb all of the alcohol when Xanax is added into the mix, possibly resulting in death.

Mixing drugs together can produce feelings of drowsiness. As Dr. Karen Miotto, a professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior has noticed, many students who feel tired after mixing drugs go into the shower to wake up. Tragically, the sedation of the mixture handicaps them, possibly resulting in a head injury from a fall or drowning in their own tub.

Mixing drugs with other drugs and/or alcohol can have severe consequences no matter if it’s the first time doing it or if the user has a track of this type of behavior in the past. The desire to feel something new amongst college students puts them at risk for trying out dangerous drugs, ultimately risking their life. Talk to a loved one you might suspect of polydrug use and alcohol mixtures, you might just save their life.

Get help for alcoholism today.

If you or a loved one is ready to overcome an alcohol addiction, reach out today. Treatment providers can connect you with programs that provide the tools to help you get and stay sober.