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How Much are College Students Really Spending on Alcohol?

Signs of Dangerous Binge Drinking that you Might not Recognize

College can be expensive, and most people take a tally of all the things they will have to pay for to get an education. From books, to tuition, to food… every dime has to be accounted for. But one major expense that most people don’t account for is alcohol. Which leads to the question: how much do college students actually spend on alcohol each year?
College students spend a lot of money on alcohol and are binge drinking more than ever.

Understanding the Facts About Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as heavy drinking patterns that elevate a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or above. For most people, this is 4 or more drinks within a two-hour period.1 Binge drinking is most common among younger adults in the 18-34 age bracket, which makes it a major problem for college students.

College Students Drinking – College Alcohol Facts

So, how much do college students spend on alcohol? It’s estimated that college students spend $5.5 billion on alcohol every year2. Dividing that sum by the number of college students reveals shocking totals the average college student spends on alcohol. Some estimate that yields about $50 a month, or up to $600 a year per student. Other estimates put that figure at a total of $900 a year. The most aggressive estimates say that college students average upwards of $5,000 over the course of their college career. You probably didn’t put that in your financial planner!

College binge drinking has risen sharply in recent years, as well. This trend suggests college alcohol spending will continue to rise in coming years.

The Dangers of College Binge Drinking

But the price of alcohol extends beyond the wallet or purse for college students. College students who binge drink experience a number of other costs, including:

  • Unprotected sex leading to pregnancies and STIs
  • Increased chance of fighting and violence
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Legal troubles
  • Drunk driving dangers

What Binge Drinking Does to a College Student’s Brain

Binge drinking in college is especially dangerous for the long-term success of students. Though college students are young adults, their brains are still developing, and heavy alcohol consumption can damage a developing brain. Studies show that heavy alcohol consumption, such as that associated with habitual binge drinking, can interfere with a person’s ability to form lasting memories, which is especially dangerous for a young adult in college.3 This is why college binge drinking is associated with poor academic performance.

Excessive alcohol consumption during adolescence has been associated with a reduction in hippocampus size. 3 The hippocampus is a part of the brain that’s associated with memory, emotions, and learning. Shrinking of the hippocampus can result in emotional challenges, depression, and memory problems.

Stop Wasting Money on Alcohol – Alcohol Abuse Treatment Programs Can Help

Binge drinking and partying has been perceived by many as a major part of the American college experience. Watching movies like Spring Breakers and Old School, it’s easy to imagine that all college students spend their weekends in parties that spill out onto the lawns of fraternities.

In reality, only two out of five college students binge drink. Besides binge drinking, college alcohol consumption rates have remained steady since the 1970s. It’s important for college students to know two facts:

  1. Not everyone is binge drinking and partying
  2. Only one night of heavy drinking can lead to permanent changes in a young person’s life

If you know a college student who needs help to stop drinking, contact Banyan Treatment Center. Young adult treatment at Banyan is personalized to each client’s needs, and our sunny location near the beach in South Florida makes treatment enjoyable. Addiction treatment can change loved ones’ lives, and even save them money in the long run. Call Banyan Treatment Center today to hear about pricing and insurance coverage for young adult rehab and alcoholism treatment in Pompano Beach.


  1. CDC – Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking
  2. Forbes – Update on Binge Drinking Among College Students
  3. NIH –Alcohol’s Effects on the Adolescent Brain
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
How Much are College Students Really Spending on Alcohol?
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