New Guidelines Deem Possible 40% of College Students Alcoholics

By Emily Murray

College students, their parents and certainly their universities won’t necessarily be happy about the new mental health guidelines. Think back to your college days – are they much different than your daily life now? Most would say a resounding ‘yes.’

College is often thought of as the time of increased knowledge and…well, partying for many but for decades now we have been trying to decipher that fine line between “part of growing up” (which is open to objection) or dangerous behavior. The new diagnostic psychiatry manual (the DSM 5) however will be classifying more college students as alcoholics and addicts than ever before. In fact, an Australian study which was conducted based on these new guidelines suggested that overall alcoholic diagnosis in the general population (not just college students) would increase the number of those diagnosed to 60%.

However, it also clears up confusing terms like “abuse” and “dependence” which to many sound quite similar. And while some have been critical of the new criteria, others see the potential benefits of diagnosing and treating this type of condition on the conservative side. Often in college, someone with an alcohol problem can blend in easily with his or hers peers, but once removed from the college scene, the difference between those who ‘grow out of it’ and those who continue to binge becomes  a bit more clear.

As mentioned in a TIME article on the subject, under current criteria for ‘alcohol abuse, only about 31% of all college students fall under this category and a mere 6% meet the qualifications of alcoholism diagnosis.

While the new guidelines may help identify those who are struggling, some worry that it may actually make the problem worse over the long term if the person is forced into believing she or he can never drink again when in fact it may have just been a phase they were going through in college.


What do you think? Is it better to be strict when it comes to the guidelines for addiction or does it cause more harm than good?