These  Red Flags May Indicate Problem Drinking in College

Drinking is something college kids do from time to time. Some will like it, some will not. When college kids experiment with drugs or drinking, they may be doing it in the safety of their dorm room or a party with friends. They may not quality when and how much they are drinking as to whether or not it is normal. Some of the signs may be there while others may not show up. The key is to be intentional in thinking about what signs may be impossible to ignore and how to know what is healthy behavior. 

Drinking Too Much

Although this seems an obvious sign, what is drinking too much to one person is not drinking too much to another. For instance, a person might tell their friend they think they’ve had a few too many drinks and that friend may blow them off. Whether or not a person managed to drink more than they should is subjective, but there are ways to tell. When it comes to setting limits, most people don’t say they will only drink a certain amount unless they know for sure they have trouble controlling their drinking. They may not be able to control it after one drink, two, or even three, but they should be able to stop at some point on their own.

Preoccupation with Drinking

When a friend or loved one is drinking and think about whether or not they have had too much, they may be drinking too much. When out with people, it is normal to have more than a passing thought about it, but if a person cannot stay present and focus on friends or someone without worrying about running low on alcohol, it might be time to assess whether there is a problem. When drinking, there should never be more focus on getting more drinks than there is on getting more time with people in the room.

Concerned Loved Ones

Family, friends, and others will begin showing concern for drinking behavior well before a person actually believes they have a problem. In most cases, significant others may demonstrate concern about how drunk they are, how often, and the kind of shape they’re in on a regular basis. They may do it directly or indirectly, discreetly or not so much. They may not know exactly what to say but since the concern deep down. When family and friends worry, it may be time to begin worrying about whether drinking is out of control. 


Fear of missing out (FOMO) can cause people to think they are going to miss out on the party when they are not drinking. They may feel they are not part of the party if they are not doing what others are doing. When people drink they may want to do it to socialize but they are not constantly thinking about the next drink or getting to some level of feeling when they drink. Some of the things to think about that maybe FOMO when it comes to drinking:

  • Feeling like it is less fun to go out if there is no drinking
  • Feeling anxious without drinking
  • Wanting to drink to calm down
  • Soothing rough emotions with drinking
  • Drinking because of peer pressure 

The red flags can show up at any event, party, or place where people are present and are drinking some alcohol. It may be dinner at a restaurant, or it might be a wine bar with friends. FOMO can bring lots of challenges when it is used as an excuse to drink or use drugs. 

Finding Help

Red flags are those signs that things are not quite right. They may be blazing red flags that are pushing people to think differently about their own or a loved one’s drinking behavior. The reality is, red flags are a sign something is going on and needs to be handled delicately. The next time friends or loved ones head out, it can help to note anything that is troublesome or not quite right. It is not worth paying a penalty for the experience. However, as friends and family know, a loved one may make excuses for behavior, blow off what they see or tell them they are not in as much trouble as they said they are with drinking. The key is to talk to the people who are struggling about drinking behavior and begin to assess what is happening. If it seems the drinking is out of control, it is worth it to talk to some professionals about how to handle the situation, particularly if they are in denial. 

The hardest thing to do is to confront a loved one about drinking behavior. Although it may not get better on its own, a loved one can seek help to get better with the support of loved ones. Just being able to tell them they may need help dealing with it and they are not alone may be enough to make them realize they can find support and healing on the other side of their dependency or addiction and find the help they need to live a fulfilling life. 

At Burning Tree West, we understand how quickly drinking can get out of hand in college. From stress to other life challenges, there are many reasons college students use substances. Our goal is to support your journey of recovery while staying in school. We encourage academic performance while seeking help for addiction.  Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We offer a holistic approach that is well-rounded and provides a continuum of care for each student. For more information, call us now at 855-997-1376