Heavy Collegiate Drinking Decreases

Nearly one in four college students who drink alcohol heavily on a regular basis stop doing so before they graduate, according to a new study.

Conducted by Dr. Kenneth Steinman of Ohio State University’s School of Public Health, the study surveyed 778 undergraduate students at the university. The research is reported in the Journal of American College Health. 1

Heavy episodic drinkers were those who reported three or more episodes of heavy drinking (four or more drinks in a row for a woman and five or more for a man) either during their senior year in high school or first year in college.

Henry Wechsler has aggressively promoted the term “binge” to describe such behavior, although research has found that about half or more of such “bingers’ weren’t even intoxicated on their most recent so-called binge. 2

Heavy episodic drinkers who hadn’t yet considered moderating their drinking consumed an average of 12.5 drinks per week. On the other hand, heavy episodic drinkers who had avoided excessive drinking for at least six months consumed an average of only one drink per week.

This research is consistent with other studies that have found the heaviest drinking to occur among first-year students and that drinking tends to moderate as students progress through their college careers.

Research has also consistently found that the vast majority of college students dramatically decrease the quantity and frequency of their alcohol consumption quickly following graduation.


  • 1. Steinman, K.J. College students’ early cessation from episodic heavy drinking: prevalence and correlates. Journal of American College Health, 2003, 51(5), 197-204.
  • 2. Perkins, H. W., DeJong, W., and Linkenbach, J. Estimated blood alcohol levels reached by “binge” and “nonbinge” drinkers: A survey of young adults in Montana. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2001, 15(4), 317-320.