The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on everyone, and people began coping in different ways. Some people began exercising extensively, while others started on their journey to become the best bread maker they could be. However, some people focused their stress and anxiety into less healthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking or doing other various drugs.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 53% of full-time college aged students ages 18-22 reported drinking alcohol in the previous 30 days, and 33% reported engaging in binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking alcohol with the intent to raise your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to .08 or above. This is about 5 drinks in 2 hours for males, and 4 drinks in 2 hours for females.
Note: Although this study was conducted on students between the ages of 18 and 22, it is important to note that 21 is the minimum age for alcohol possession and consumption in the United States!
Even though drinking was used for coping with the stress and anxiety that COVID-19 brought, the statistics above dropped off in 2020 and 2021 as colleges and universities had been having online classes rather than in-person learning. In addition, social distancing may have made college parties fewer and further between, as people generally did not feel comfortable in large groups.
With on-campus learning resuming this year, in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available, these statistics may begin to resume as new domestic and international students leave home and begin to experience college life in the United States. Also, students may continue their current alcohol use or form different habits around drinking as they begin to take part in more social activities.
Long-term effects of alcohol use
Using alcohol may alleviate anxiety and stress in the short term, but prolonged alcohol use can be detrimental to students.
The long-term mental effects of alcohol use can result in:
- Memory loss
- Higher risk of anxiety and depression
- Mood swings or changes in personality
- Disrupted sleep
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of attention span
- Diminished brain matter (which in worst case scenarios may result in trouble with speaking and understanding language, dementia, seizures and/or stroke)
As you may see, most of the symptoms can really affect a person physically and mentally, and impair many abilities that you need to have as a student, such as memory, good attention span and learning. It is highly encouraged that you get help if you drink regularly and notice any of these symptoms or if family or friends feel concerned for your well-being and bring this issue to you. Even if you are physically well, mental health issues may bring you physical problems and become a very big worry.
Insurance and inebriation
Besides long-term symptoms on the brain and illnesses (such as liver disease, pancreatitis, chronic gastritis, etc.), there are immediate risks such as bicycle/car accidents caused by driving under the influence or other physical accidents due to numbness in the extremities or poor coordination. It is important to note that many international student insurance plans specifically do not cover injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is often listed in the exclusions of your plan, and as always, we encourage you to read through all the benefits and exclusions of your plan.
However, our student plans do include coverage for alcohol and substance abuse treatment as a mental health benefit! As mentioned above, your well-being is of the utmost importance and you can ask for help or counseling at any time.
So, don’t forget! We at ISI wish everyone a safe and healthy return to campus as things slowly start to return to normal, and if you are going to have some drinks with friends or campus colleagues, try to do it safely.
Tags: alcohol, alcohol and substance abuse, Alcoholism, anxiety and depression, colleges and universities, COVID-19 pandemic, drinking alcohol, effects of alcohol use, international student insurance, international student insurance plans, International students, mental health, mental health benefit, stress