Proof that Alcohol and College Exams Don’t Mix

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For decades, the night after big college exams has served as a standing invitation to kick off some serious alcohol-soaked partying. Often there is too little studying and a whole lot of alcohol consumption because, as some students find, primal screaming simply isn’t enough of a stress reliever.

Binge Drinking in College: A Dangerous Habit

However, this cycle creates a problem for many students. Statistical research has shown that those who rely on alcohol to relieve the stress of college exams are more likely to suffer alcohol-related problems, says Andrew Littlefield, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Texas Tech University.

“There are numerous studies that suggest individuals who tend to use alcohol to cope are more likely to experience alcohol-related problems and meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder,” he said.

“Thus, students who use alcohol excessively to reduce anxiety related to finals or other problems are more likely to also encounter various alcohol-related problems.”

The more alcohol a student consumes in a week, the lower his or her GPA slips, according to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). A student with a GPA in the A range consumes, on average, 3.3 drinks per week while a student who downs nine or more alcoholic beverages per week has a GPA in the D or even F range.

Taking the Data Further

A University of Portland study supports the NIAAA conclusions and takes the data a step further.

Students who have consumed alcohol up to 30 days prior to an exam can have trouble taking the test because their ability to think abstractly is still being affected, according to the study. Decision-making could also be a problem for up to 30 days after consumption.

Science has proven that the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25 which means that for most students, any amount of alcohol consumed could have consequences that lie far beyond exam-taking. For example, development of the frontal lobes of the brain means a person’s ability to plan, form ideas, make decisions, and use self-control come into play.

While excessive consumption during college exams may not do permanent damage to the frontal lobes, it could set up a pattern of use in stressful situations. The best advice is to be smart – always choose brain cells and finals over keg stands and jell-o shots.


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