Crackdown: Binge Drinking at Colleges
Aug. 29, 2001 -- Looking forward to sending your college student to the ivied halls? They may be more excited about the keg parties. According to recent reports, 44% of college students binge drink -- meaning they drink five or more alcoholic drinks at a sitting, for men, and four or more in a row, for women -- and did so three or more times over a two-week period.
A new survey finds that parents and other adults are becoming increasingly concerned about it: 95% of parents feel that excessive alcohol consumption is a serious threat to their children; 85% say that the easy availability of alcohol in college communities contributes to too much drinking.
"The statistics are startling," says J. Edward Hill, MD, chairman-elect of the American Medical Association. "Binge drinking is an extremely serious public health problem. Now we have evidence that parents and people in college communities are also very concerned."
The survey was released today by the American Medical Association (AMA) as part of the AMA's "A Matter of Degree" initiative. For the past five years, the initiative has worked to reduce college binge drinking through college-community coalitions and other strategies, and is supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"Binge drinking puts not just the drinkers themselves but others at risk for all sorts of problems -- drunken driving, sexual assault and violence, traumatic injury," Hill tells WebMD.
Among the survey's other findings:
- 93% of parents believe that easy access to an abundance of cheap alcohol is a major cause of excessive drinking
- 81% of parents said they feel more comfortable sending their child to a college that has strong policies or programs to deter underage and binge drinking
- 92% of residents in college towns support beefed-up enforcement of laws prohibiting alcohol sales to underage persons.
- 78% of community residents also favor limiting the number and location of bars close to college campuses.
- 73% would like to see alcohol advertising banned from college sports and college newspapers.
The data help support the AMA's coalition efforts, already in place on 10 major college campuses, says Hill.
"We want to reverse the social influences that encourage high-risk drinking," he tells WebMD. "Students are bombarded with alcohol promotions, advertisements that portray drinking as something that's cool, sexy, fun. All sorts of special offerings -- two-for-one drinks, dollar pitchers of beer, ladies' night, advertising promotions for spring break -- they all have a significant influence."
The AMA's program is making a difference, he says.
Just last week, Microsoft agreed to pull a web site promotion for a microbrew kit being marketed as a gift from parents to their homesick kids at college. "It came with a book, 'Games You Can Play While Drinking Beer,' something like that," Hill tells WebMD. "We were appalled."