Rise in Alcohol Abuse by College Women
Survey Also Shows Rise in Abuse of Prescription Painkillers by College Students
WebMD News Archive
March 15, 2007 -- A report released Thursday shows what researchers call an
alarming rise in binge drinking among college women, part of a trend of rampant
drinking and drug use on campuses nationwide.
And a second report released by the government concludes that young girls
are increasingly turning to household inhalants to get high, a practice known
It isn't clear whether the studies, which were released separately, point to
an overall trend in increased drug use among women and girls. But they are two
examples of females catching up in two forms of substance abuse once dominated
Drinking on Campus
Men have historically reported higher rates of drinking than women. But the
difference now seems to have evaporated, according to a survey released by the
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA),
a nonprofit drug abuse research group.
The report found a 16% rise between 1993 and 2005 in the number of full-time
college students who acknowledge frequent binge drinking. But binge drinking
was up 22% in women, nearly double the increase in men. At the same time, 37%
of college women said they drank on 10 or more occasions in the last month.
The study, using a survey of 2,000 students on 400 campuses, also found a
steep rise in abuse of prescription pain drugs by college students. Nonmedical
use of narcotic drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin shot up 343% between 1993 and
2005, the report shows.
The report "reveals not only a lack of progress, but rather an alarming
public health crisis on America's college campuses," says Joseph Califano,
president of CASA and a former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in
the Carter administration.
'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
"There has been a failure of leadership," Califano says. "The
college presidents and the college leadership do not have this high on their
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.