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College Drinking Harms Campus Community

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

April 10, 2002 -- College drinking not only creates alcohol-related problems for the imbiber, but a new report shows it can cause a wide array of hazards for the campus and community at large. According to the study, drinking by college students age 18-24 contributes to about 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries, and 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape each year.

"The harm that college students do to themselves and others as a result of excessive drinking exceeds what many would have expected," says study author Ralph W. Hingson, ScD, professor of social behavioral sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, in a news release. "Our data clearly point to the need for better interventions against high-risk drinking in this population."

The report also found more than one-fourth of college students have driven in the past year while under the influence of alcohol.

The study appears in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol. The research was supported and commissioned by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

"These numbers paint a picture of a deeply entrenched threat to the health and well-being of our young people," says Raynard S. Kingston, MD, PhD, acting director of NIAAA, in a news release.

NIAAA is sending a copy of the report to every college in the U.S. as a reminder for students and administrations to participate in National Alcohol Screening Day on April 11. More than 550 of the 2,500 screening sites will be located on college and university campuses.

Researchers say drinking rates are highest among incoming freshmen, males, members of fraternities and sororities, and athletes. Drinking rates are lowest among students who attend two-year institutions, religious schools, commuter schools, and predominantly or historically black colleges and universities.

Previous studies have shown that a minority of students seems to be responsible for the majority of alcohol abuse on college campuses. But other research indicates that the number of students who drink to extremes is growing.

A recent survey found 20% of students binge drank more than three times in the last 2 weeks, defined as drinking five or more consecutive drinks for a man and four drinks in a row for a woman. Researchers say this group of frequent binge drinkers accounts for almost 70% of all the alcohol consumed by college students.

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