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Head to Head: College drinking patterns should not be considered alcoholism

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

This is a head to head column. Read the opposing view here.


Take a walk through any residence hall on this campus and one is sure to find alcohol sitting out, hidden in cupboards or stashed in water bottles. It is not news that students at Colorado State University drink. 

On this campus and among people my age I have heard the phrase “I’m an alcoholic” used countless amounts of times. Students say it as a joke, use it as an excuse, and in a few cases they might actually mean it.

However, the word “alcoholic” need not be thrown around or taken lightly. Typical college drinking patterns are not a form of alcoholism, rather just poor choices influenced by an unhealthy environment.

One of the most common college drinking patterns is binge drinking. My colleague Shay Rego argues that this is a form of alcoholism. However, even if most college students participate in this unhealthy habit, binge drinking should not be considered the same as alcoholism.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “alcohol use disorder, which includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism, is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.”

Rego argues that 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, but that does not mean those 20 percent are engaging in typical college drinking patterns.

What we are talking about is whether patterns such as social drinking and occasional binge drinking truly count as alcoholism, even at its lowest level.

Rego also argues that binge drinking is a form of alcoholism because once binge drinkers start drinking, they cannot stop. However, according to Rego’s source, even though binge drinkers consume it in great quantity, they are typically not alcohol-dependent, which is necessary to constitute true alcoholism.

Rego’s argument is hyper-focused on how binge drinking constitutes alcoholism, but typical college drinking patterns extend beyond just binge drinking.


Another pattern in college is social drinking. According to one study, students revealed that the principal purpose for drinking is to engage in social interactions. However, the Mayo Clinic states that a symptom of actual alcoholism is actually retreating from social and work activities.

If typical college drinking patterns were a form of alcoholism, then many students would be failing to fulfill their academic and work obligations, as well as having so much of a dependency that they bring it to unsafe or inappropriate situations. 

Initial alcoholism is not always obvious. It is slow and discreet, and the addicted person and their loved ones will do everything in their power to deny its existence.

The phrase “I’m an alcoholic” has heavy emotional weight for many people. Those words should be treated with respect and reserved for those who have experienced the struggles of this disease, not college binge drinkers who have never seen how alcohol can destroy people’s lives.

Katrina Leibee can be reached at or Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.

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About the Contributor
Katrina Leibee, Editor-in-Chief
Katrina Leibee is serving as The Rocky Mountain Collegian's editor in chief for the 2021-22 academic year. Leibee started at The Collegian during the fall of her freshman year writing for the opinion desk. She then moved up to assistant opinion editor and served as the opinion director for the 2020-21 academic year. Leibee is a journalism and political science double major, but her heart lies in journalism. She enjoys writing, editing and working with a team of people to create the paper more than anything. Ask anyone, Leibee loves her job at The Collegian and believes in the great privilege and opportunity that comes with holding a job like this. The biggest privilege is getting to work with a team of such smart, talented editors, writers, photographers and designers. The most important goal Leibee has for her time as editor in chief is to create change, and she hopes her and her staff will break the status quo for how The Collegian has previously done things and for what a college newspaper can be. From creating a desk dedicated entirely to cannabis coverage to transitioning the paper into an alt-weekly, Leibee hopes she can push the boundaries of The Collegian and make it a better paper for its readers and its staff. Leibee is not one to accept a broken system, sit comfortably inside the limits or repeat the words, "That's the way we've always done things." She is a forward thinker with a knack for leadership, and she has put together the best staff imaginable to bring The Collegian to new heights.

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