Back to School #5: CCSA Report on Drinking Among Post-Secondary Students

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Last post, we discussed a Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) report on the harms of youth alcohol use. CCSA released a similar report on Heavy Episodic Drinking Among Post-Secondary Students, summarized below.

The CCSA ran focus groups on five Canadian post-secondary campuses to discuss students’ beliefs on binge drinking. Key highlights from this report include:

Student attitudes on heavy drinking

  • Generally, students do not recognize their drinking behaviours to be harmful
  • Students do not perceive excessive drinking as a serious concern
  • Drinking is an expected part of the post-secondary experience with minimal perceived health or safety risks
  • Experiences with alcohol change over time as students learn their limits

Reasons for participating in heavy drinking

  • The campus culture of drinking to socialize, have fun, and be with friends
  • Peer pressure to keep up with others’ drinking through various activities, including drinking games and buying rounds of drinks
  • Dealing with school pressures and reducing anxiety and stress
  • Boredom and having nothing else to do

Student suggestions on how to reduce heavy drinking

  • Educate students early and often about alcohol and its potential harms, preferably from peers as it is more appealing and relatable
  • Normalize moderate drinking as a part of everyday life rather than condemning it
  • Find fun alternative activities for students in the evening, rather than going to bars and clubs
  • Eliminate risky behaviour through smart practices, like bringing a set amount of money to the bar or club, limiting amounts of alcohol for pre-drinking, and consuming non-alcoholic drinks during drinking occasions


Meister, S. R., Barker, B., & Flores Pajot, M.-C. (2018). Heavy episodic drinking among post-secondary students: Influencing factors and implications. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

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