Students drink more when studying abroad


There are few adventures greater for students than studying abroad. Apart from the obvious fun of traveling, students who immerse themselves in a new culture learn new languages, new skills and new ways to solve problems and challenges.

Studying abroad has real benefits, too – a recent University of Georgia study found that students who studied abroad had higher four-year graduation rates. The Institute for the International Education of Students, a nonprofit organization, lists further benefits. According to them, students who study abroad earn more, find jobs faster after graduating and find it easier to get into graduate school.

So it seems like a no-brainer, and it largely is. It’ll be a good adventure, if nothing else. However, like every adventure, there’s potential pitfalls. Substance abuse is one of them.

Blackout drinking isn’t passing out – it’s worse

Risk-management travel company On Call International recently conducted a study based on a Google Consumer Survey of more than 1,000 students who studied abroad in the past two years. On Call found that 50 percent of the respondents reported that they drank more while abroad. More alarmingly, 11 percent – 1 in 9 respondents – said they drank until they “blacked out” more often while abroad.

No big deal, right? Students like to party. The thing is, drinking to the point of memory loss – which is what “blacking out” essentially means – is highly dangerous. Blacking out isn’t drinking until one falls asleep. A blackout is actually a form of drug-induced amnesia. People who have drunk themselves into a blackout can still engage in activities, from eating to fighting, and have absolutely no memory of doing those things later.

Studies show that blackout drinkers put themselves at risk for injury. A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health study from 2012 showed that college students who drank until blackout were more likely to have injuries related to alcohol than those who didn’t. An additional study from the same team showed that college emergency department costs could total $500,000 per year due to blackout-related injuries.

Other risks

On Call’s survey found that students who studied abroad also engaged in other risky behaviors. About 1 out of 5 respondents said they accepted rides from local strangers who weren’t taxi drivers, and 32 percent of the students said they engaged in casual hook-ups with strangers. Severely impaired judgment also leaves people vulnerable to robbery and assault.

Binge drinking, which often goes hand-in-hand with blackouts, has multiple health risks on its own. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that excessive drinking kills around 88,000 in the United States every year; the CDC also says that excessive drinking is a factor in the deaths of over 4,300 underage drinkers each year.

This isn’t meant to be a warning against global travel or new experiences – both are important, life-changing events in the lives of anyone fortunate enough to engage in them. However, it’s equally important to keep safety in mind. It may be tempting to cut loose when on one’s own, particularly in a country where one finds themselves suddenly able to drink legally, but the costs aren’t worth it.

White River Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for boys aged 12 to 17. Our school is staffed by compassionate experts in the fields of counseling, education and treatment who are prepared to help your son become the man he was intended to be. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years.

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