Alcohol and Grades

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Almost 2 out of 3 college students reported binge drinking of alcohol in the last 30 days (1).
Adults ages 18 to 29 years had the highest proportion of people with alcohol disorders (2).

In the United States, a standard drink is defined as (12):
• 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content
• 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
• 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content

What is high risk drinking?
High risk, heavy drinking, or binge drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks on one occasion, can impact academics (3, 4, 5).
It is also related to:
• Academic problems (6)
• Fewer study hours (5,7)
• Lower reported grades (8)

How does heavy drinking impact your academic performance?
• Frequent heavy drinking is related to:
• Increased sleepiness (4)
• Disrupted sleep (4)
• Disrupted learning (9)
• Disrupted memory (9)
• Increased social and emotional problems over time (10)
These factors might cause you to miss classes, deadlines, or perform poorly.

What is low risk drinking?

Low risk DOES NOT mean no risk.
For some people a lower cutoff may be more beneficial.

Who should avoid alcohol?
It’s safest to avoid alcohol altogether if you are:
• Taking medications that interact with alcohol (11)
• Managing a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking (11)
• Underage (11)
• Planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery(11)
• Pregnant or trying to become pregnant (11)
You should also avoid alcohol if you have a family history of addiction because of increased genetic risk of addiction.

Where can you learn more about alcohol?
How much is too much, strategies for cutting down, quitting can be found here:
• Take the OSU Free Anonymous Mental health Screen

From what I have seen in practice and research, as we learn more about the impact of alcohol, the amount of alcohol that is considered safe continues to be lower than previously thought.

Are you regularly drinking too much alcohol? How is it impacting your academic, emotional and physical health?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


1.  SAMHSA. 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 6.89B—Binge Alcohol Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 22, \HWVGFGHNSDUH-DetTabs2014/NSDUH-DetTabs2014.htm#tab6-89b 

2. Turrisi R, Larimer ME, Mallett KA, Kilmer JR, Ray AE, Mastroleo NR, et al. A randomized clinical trial evaluating a combined alcohol intervention for high-risk college students. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009;70:555–67.

3. El Ansari W, Stock C, Mills C. Is alcohol consumption associated with poor academic achievement in university students? Int J Prev Med (2013) 4(10):1175–88. 

4. Singleton RA, Jr, Wolfson AR. Alcohol consumption, sleep, and academic performance among college students. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009;70:355–63. 

5. Wolaver AM. Effects of heavy drinking in college on study effort, grade point average, and major choice. Contemp Econ Policy. 2002;20:415–28.

6.  Wechsler H, Dowdall GW, Maenner G, Gledhill-Hoyt J, Lee H. Changes in binge drinking and related problems among American college students between 1993 and 1997. Results of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. J Am Coll Health. 1998;47:57–68. 

7. Webb E, Ashton CH, Kelly P, Kamali F. Alcohol and drug use in UK university students. Lancet. 1996;348:922–5. 

8. Engs RC, Diebold BA, Hanson DJ. The drinking patterns and problems of a national sample of college students. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. 1996;41:13–33.

 9. Zeigler DW, Wang CC, Yoast RA, Dickinson BD, McCaffree MA, Robinowitz CB, et al. The neurocognitive effects of alcohol on adolescents and college students. Prev Med. 2005;40:23–32.

10. Crosnoe R, Benner AD, Schneider B. Drinking, socioemotional functioning, and academic progress in secondary school. J Health Soc Behav. 2012;53:150–64.


12. The National Institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism.