Binge drinking (or just plain drinking) is part of college. As David Wood so accurately wrote, “College is the best time of your life. When else are your parents going to spend thousands dollars a year just for you to go to a strange town and get drunk every night?” But while that’s all well and good when you’re 19 and ready for anything, phasing out of keg stands and flip cup can be harder than you think.

After four years of Thirsty Thursdays and limited responsibilities, post-grad life can come as a shock to some students, especially when it comes to switching up drinking habits. While in college, binge drinking is almost considered the norm, since almost everyone participates. Even the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse states that about 72% of Americans have a 3-4 year period of heavy drinking in their lives, usually during college. Whether or not they move on from it is a different story.

binge drinking

Photo by Bari Blanga

It’s hard to tell who is more likely to hold onto their bad college drinking habits, but the threat of alcoholism can be very real. There are some high-risk behaviors that can continue after college and make those habits permanent. Hanging out with friends or family who have heavy drinking patterns contribute to an individual’s perception of binge drinking. Additionally, work or school environments were drinking is a key part of socializing can increase the risk of alcoholism.

Genetics also play a huge role in how a person will respond to life after college. About 50 percent of alcoholics come from a family where alcoholism is common. Mental illness can also be a key factor, as some people with depression, anxiety, or PTSD will turn to alcohol to self-medicate. Impulse control issues are common indicators as well. Certain drinking patterns such as blacking out frequently or being unable to stop drinking can contribute to this.

binge drinking

Photo by Sharon Cho

Even though the habits we all get so used to while in school can be hard to break, there are ways to help curb binge drinking after graduation. Something as simple as moving away from home can make a huge difference. Increasing feelings of independence and responsibility lowers the urge to drink and can shift your perspective on what’s important.

There are even things that you can (try to) start doing now to make the transition from college to post-grad drinking easier. Knowing your limits and learning how to say no once you feel you’ve had enough are good places to start. And, even though everyone loves them, it’s time to move on from shots and taking pulls. Making a mixed drink makes hard liquor more tolerable and (let’s face it) is a little classier than shots.

binge drinking

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It’s a different world of drinking after college, which means no more blacking out and no more sloppy nights out. Throwing up and getting carried home by your friends are no longer acceptable ways to end the night. Overall, the best way to make sure you can master the post-college drinking world is to learn your limits and be able to gauge your level of drunkenness. And, unfortunately, those are skills that are definitely better to learn now rather than later.

The key to drinking after (and during) college is remembering everything in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, no matter how old you are, but remembering to stay safe and keep your body healthy is important too. Keep your drinking limits in mind and remember that you won’t be in college forever. But for now, enjoy your Thirsty Thursdays while you still have them and learn these important drinking lessons while you’ve still got time.