Alcohol Use in College: Facts and Statistics
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Note: This data report contains content related to alcohol use disorder, suicide, and sexual assault. Please take note of these confidential and free resources, all available 24/7. If you are experiencing a life-threatening situation, seek help or dial 911.
If you are experiencing substance use disorder, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment referral and information services, both in English and Spanish.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available if you or someone you know is considering suicide: Call 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available at 1-800-656-4673. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please seek legal counsel.
In 2022, 71% of undergraduate college students reported having drunk alcohol in their lifetime. Out of the 54,000 students surveyed, about 93% reported drinking in the past three months.
Alcohol use tends to be higher in college students compared to non-college youth.
For the past two decades, alcohol use among college students has stayed fairly consistent. In 2000, 83.2% of college students reported using alcohol, and in 2020, 76.7% reported using alcohol.
Students reported experiencing negative consequences from drinking, including physically injuring themselves, doing something they later regretted, and having unprotected sex.Note Reference 
In 2018, alcohol use disorder was most prevalent among college students who were two or more races (19.9%), white (13.5%), and Asian (9.1%).
About 7% of college students reported that they had ever failed to cut down or control their drinking.Note Reference 
In 2020, nearly a quarter of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults between 18 and 25 (23.8%) reported having an alcohol use disorder, compared to just under 16% of the general population between 18-25., 
For college students, cracking open a beer, filling up red solo cups with vodka-spiked punch, or passing around bagged wine can be central to a campus's social culture. As students experience more freedom in college — some of them for the first time in their lives — drinking alcohol can be liberating and exciting.
However, binge drinking on college campuses can also be dangerous. Hazing practices with alcohol among social organizations can be particularly hazardous.
Recently, Virginia Commonwealth University reached a nearly $1 million settlement with the Oakes family following the death of their son, Adam, who tragically lost his life in an alcohol-related hazing incident last year.
Since 2011, the annual percentage of college students who use alcohol has stayed about the same, between 75-79%, according to the 2020 Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use.Note Reference 
However, the percentage of college students who reported binge drinking has decreased in the past five years, from 31.3% to 28%.Note Reference 
Here are other important statistics to keep in mind regarding alcohol on campus.
Table of Contents
Alcohol Use in College Students
- In the 2022 National College Health Assessment by the American College Health Association (ACHA), about 71% of students reported that they had drunk alcohol in their lifetime.Note Reference 
- Out of those who had drunk alcohol in the past year, 44% intended on getting drunk the last time they drank alcohol.Note Reference 
- Over half (55.5%) of students who reported drinking in the past three months had a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol.Note Reference 
- About 17% of students reported feeling a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol weekly.Note Reference 
How Much Do College Students Drink?
- When students were asked how many drinks of alcohol they had the last time they drank in a social setting, the average was 3.47 drinks.Note Reference 
- Just over a quarter of students (26.3%) had over five drinks the last time they drank socially.Note Reference 
- Over three-fourths of undergraduate students drank between one and four hours the last time they drank socially.Note Reference 
- About 21% of students drank for more than five hours the last time they drank socially.Note Reference 
Binge Drinking Statistics
Binge drinking, according to Monitoring the Future, is when someone drinks five or more alcoholic beverages in a row. High-intensity drinking refers to any situation in which a person has 10 or more drinks in a row.Note Reference 
Drinking to this level is fairly common in a college setting.
- Binge drinking among college students saw a historic low during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Just 28% of students reported binge drinking.) The percentage has since rebounded to pre-pandemic levels (32%) in 2021.Note Reference 
- Still, binge drinking levels have decreased over the past 10 years, from 35.5% in 2011 to 32% in 2021.Note Reference 
- High-intensity drinking, however, has increased in that same time frame. The percentage of college students reporting having 10 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks has increased from 11% in 2011 to 13.1% in 2021.Note Reference 
College Drinking Over the Years
College students' drinking behavior has changed significantly over time, including how many students reported being drunk and how many reported drinking alcoholic beverages mixed with energy drinks.
- Since 1980, the annual prevalence of alcohol use among college students has decreased by nearly 15 percentage points (from 90.5% to 76.7%).Note Reference 
- However, between 2015 and 2020, alcohol use among college students has stayed more consistent, ranging between 74.6% to 79%.Note Reference 
- The use of alcoholic beverages mixed with energy drinks has decreased from 33.6% in 2011 to 20.7% in 2020.Note Reference 
- In 2020, 80.8% of students reported drinking flavored alcoholic beverages. This was the highest percentage in the past 15 years.Note Reference 
- Over half of college students (58%) reported getting drunk in 2020, compared to nearly 65% in 2000.Note Reference 
Alcohol on Campus by Student Characteristics
Full-Time College Students vs. Non-College Youth
- Only 69% of non-college youth drank alcohol compared to 76% of college students in a 12-month period.Note Reference 
- A higher percentage of college students reported binge drinking in the past two weeks compared to non-college youth (30.4% vs. 24.5%). Non-college youth reported more high-intensity drinking than college students (15.1% vs. 10.5%).Note Reference 
- In 1980, 44% of college students and 41% of non-college youth reported binge drinking. Now, only 30% of college students and 25% of non-college students reported this behavior.Note Reference 
- 2.1% of college students reported drinking alcohol on a daily basis as opposed to 3.5% of their non-college peers.Note Reference 
Alcohol Use in College Students by Gender and Sexuality
- The last time they reported drinking alcohol, the average number of drinks for male students was 4.41, 3.16 for female students, and 3.02 for trans/gender non-conforming students.Note Reference 
- From 1980 to 2021, binge consumption of alcohol by male students decreased by 18 percentage points (from 52% to 33.9%). Binge drinking among female students also decreased, but only by 7 percentage points (from 35.8% to 28.8%).Note Reference 
- More college female students reported drinking alcohol than male college students (53.4% compared to 51.4%), but more male students reported binge drinking and heavy drinking.Note Reference 
- In 2019, 10% of male college students reported having alcohol use disorder, compared to 7.7% of female college students.Note Reference 
- In 2020, nearly a quarter of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults between 18 and 25 (23.8%) reported having alcohol use disorder. Only 15.6% of the general population between 18-25 years old reported having the disorder.Note Reference , Note Reference 
Alcohol Use in College Students by Race and Ethnicity
- Nearly one in five college students (19.9%) who were more than one race reported experiencing alcohol use disorder in 2018, which was the highest percentage among all races and ethnicities.Note Reference 
- Non-college youth reported lower or the same levels of alcohol use disorder compared to college students, regardless of race.Note Reference 
- The prevalence of alcohol use disorder decreased among all college students between 2018 and 2019, regardless of race or ethnicity.Note Reference 
Undergraduate Students' Experiences While Drinking
Beyond occasional slurred speech and brutal hangovers, college students reported much more severe experiences while drinking, including browning out and blacking out.
According to the ACHA, browning out refers to when someone forgets where they were or what they did for a short period of time while drinking. However, they can recall those events when someone else reminds them.Note Reference 
Blacking out refers to when a person drinks so much that they forget where they were and what they did for large amounts of time.Note Reference 
- Nearly a quarter of college students (24.2%) who drink alcohol reported browning out while drinking.Note Reference 
- 1.9% of college students who drink alcohol reported that someone had raped them when they were under the influence.Note Reference 
- 12.3% reported having unprotected sex while drinking.Note Reference 
- Over 20% of college drinkers reported doing something that they later regretted while drinking.Note Reference 
- Out of the undergraduate students who drank alcohol within the past year, 3% seriously considered suicide while under the influence.Note Reference 
- About 13% of students blacked out while drinking in the past 12 months.Note Reference 
- Only about 1% of undergraduates reported getting in trouble with their college while drinking in the past year.Note Reference 
Support for Alcohol Use Disorder in College
Alcohol use disorder is a real concern for college students.
- According to the 2022 ACHA report, about 10% of students who have drunk alcohol before reported that a friend or relative has expressed concern about their alcohol use.Note Reference 
- In the same report, just over 7% of college students reported that they had failed to cut down or control their drinking.Note Reference 
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration lists resources for those experiencing substance use disorder, along with a national hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for those seeking treatment referral and services.
Start Your Recovery can also provide students with information and resources, including the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and ULifeLine, an online resource for college students seeking mental healthcare.
Frequently Asked Questions About College Student Alcohol Use
How many college students drink alcohol?
In the 2022 ACHA survey, 71% of over 54,000 undergraduate respondents reported drinking alcohol in their lifetime.Note Reference  If you were to apply that percent to all undergraduates, it would mean that 11.3 million students drank in 2022.Note Reference , 
What percentage of college students drink alcohol every day?
Since the early 2000s, the percentage of college students who reported drinking alcohol every day has declined. According to Monitoring the Future, in 2020, 2.4% reported drinking alcohol daily. In 2006, this number was twice as high (4.8%).Note Reference