Do You Have to Drink in College?

by Elizabeth Gentry, 19

Alcohol seems like it is ever-present in our lives. College drinking is depicted everywhere in movies and on TV, and people love to talk about how drunk they got over the weekend or what their plans are for the coming weekend. When it comes to having fun in college (and taking full advantage of a new, parent-free life), it can seem like a cocktail is the ultimate accessory. After all, the glamorization of alcohol often makes it feel like the number of drinks you have is tied to the amount of fun you have.

If drinking isn't your thing, you might be overwhelmed by the idea of everyone in college going out and partying on the weekends. You might be wondering if you will have any friends or social life at all if you don't. What happens to you if you don't want to drink? Is that okay? Absolutely!

You should not feel obligated to drink if it isn't appealing to you. I promise you will not be the only one. Obviously the percentage of people who don't drink varies from school to school, but you can have fun and find "your people" no matter what your weekend style is.

When I was in elementary school, we had a police officer go over hundreds of facts about the problems with drinking. I'm pretty sure that presentation was set up to scare me away from alcohol, and it worked.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol increases the possibility of unwanted sexual activity and may disrupt normal physical development. Those who begin drinking before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to develop substance abuse problems later on than those who begin drinking after 21. Today, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol, and 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

These types of statistics scared me when I was younger, and they (along with my underage status) still keep me away from the beer and bubbly. I'm really not interested in drinking and the consequences. Knowing my luck something would happen to me.

When I first got to high school and then college, I felt like I was constantly being pushed towards drinking. There were times it seemed like I was the only one who wasn't drinking and who wasn't planning my weekends around getting drunk. I was fine with others drinking, but I didn't want to be involved myself. It made me feel isolated, and I hated it.

In truth, far fewer people drink than it may seem. According to the CDC, only 35% of high schoolers drink. And while the percentage is higher among college students, and the percentage varies from campus to campus, there is a population that chooses to spend their time in other ways. You just have to find them.

Now a rising sophomore in college, I've found that I don't have to drink to be social, and most people respect me for being completely honest and living the life I want to live. If you strongly feel like you don't want to drink, then don't! It is best to be honest with yourself. Don't push yourself to do things you don't want to do.

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Sources & Resources
"National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Web. 08 June 2015.

"Fact Sheets - Underage Drinking." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 08 June 2015.

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