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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Rise in Alcohol Abuse by College Women

Survey Also Shows Rise in Abuse of Prescription Painkillers by College Students
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'Not on Their Radar Screens'

The report blames lax attitudes on college campuses toward drinking, which is widespread but illegal for most freshmen and sophomores if they are under 21. Califano calls for a ban on alcohol advertising in school-related publications and at sporting events, noting that the sports stadium at the University of Colorado is named for the Coors beer company.

The report also criticizes alumni associations and fraternities and sororities for often fostering an environment where heavy drinking is accepted or encouraged.

"There has been a failure of leadership," Califano says. "The college presidents and the college leadership do not have this high on their radar screens."

Conflict in Data

The data seem in part to conflict with ongoing government surveys appearing to show mostly unchanged rates of drinking among college-age adults.

Nearly 70% of students in the CASA survey acknowledged high-risk drinking in the past month in 2005. But the federal government's main ongoing study of U.S. drug abuse trends found that just 44% of 18-year-olds and 66% of 22-year-olds reported any past-month drinking that same year.

The federal report, known as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, is a primary source of drug use data for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Califano defends his group's study, saying, "I don't think they have done the kind of analysis we have done."

Jennifer DeVallance, an ONDCP spokeswoman, says the report does not undercut government claims that alcohol abuse is relatively flat among college-age adults. Thursday's report focuses on adults at college, while the government's yearly survey looks at all adults of the same age group whether they are in college or not, she says.

"These are two different studies among two different groups of people," DeVallance says. "We would agree that there are some disturbing trends as far as alcohol and prescription drug use goes."

Thursday's report on inhalant abuse shows that the overall number of children participating in "huffing" remained stable between 2002 and 2005. But while fewer boys began using inhalants in 2005 than three years earlier, the number of girls starting use rose from 285,000 to 337,000, the report concludes.

Overall, just under 5% of U.S. children are estimated to have used inhalants to get high, it shows.

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