Alcohol kills 1,400 students a year!

Drinking by college kids also linked to injuries, rapes, accidents

Janelle Kanovich, 22, of Harrisburg, Pa., drinks free tequila at a nightclub during her first night of spring break in Cancun, Mexico. A new report shows that drinking among college students needs to seen as a major health concern, experts say.

April 9 —  The consequences of college drinking are more destructive than commonly thought, suggests a new study that finds an estimated 1,400 students aged 18 to 24 are killed every year in alcohol-related accidents.

“HALF THE World Trade Center casualties are happening every year in our colleges,” said one researcher, Mark Goldman, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida.
       The study, which the researchers call the most comprehensive look ever at the consequences of college drinking, also estimated it contributes to 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape. And 400,000 students between 18 and 24 years old reported having had unprotected sex as a result of drinking.
       Additionally, more than one-fourth of college students in that age group have driven while under the influence in the past year, the report said.
       The researchers say the figures show that college drinking needs to seen as a major health concern.
       “Historically, I think there has been the view that whatever college students are doing, it’s not that serious a problem, it’s a rite of passage,” said another researcher, Kenneth J. Sher, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
       The report was one of 24 studies commissioned by federally supported Task Force on College Drinking, a panel of college presidents, scientists and students convened by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The institute is part of the National Institutes of Health.
       Most of the papers will be published in the forthcoming March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol.

Study sheds light on dangerous drinking

April 9, 2002 — A major new study reveals disturbing details about the dangerous drinking habits on college campuses across America. NBC’s Robert Hager reports.

Researchers integrated various databases and survey results to reach their findings.

       Motor vehicle fatalities were the most common form of alcohol-related deaths. The statistics included college students killed in car accidents if the students had alcohol in their blood, even if the level was below the legal limit.
       Students who died in other alcohol-related accidents, such as falls and drownings, were included. Those who died as a result of homicides or suicides were not.
       Chief researcher Ralph Hingson of the Boston University School of Public Health said he believes the estimates are more likely to be too conservative than overstated.
       “I think actually getting the numbers out will help the public understand that this is a very large problem, perhaps a larger problem than people might have otherwise thought,” he said.

       Though common on many campuses, alcohol abuse does not run rampant among all university students, the panel said. Previous studies have shown that most students drink moderately or abstain, with the proportion of teetotalers increasing from 15 percent to 19 percent from 1993 to 1999.

 In general, drinking rates are highest among incoming freshmen, males, members of fraternities or sororities and athletes, the task force said. Students who attend two-year institutions, religious schools, commuter schools or predominantly or historically black colleges drink the least.
       The big problem: Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in a row for men and at least four for women.
       About 40 percent of students binge drink, according to background data in the report, about the same percentage as in the early 1990s.
       And in a recent survey, about 20 percent of students reported bingeing more than three times in the last two weeks. That group accounts for nearly 70 percent of all the alcohol consumed by college students, the panel said.
       “Although a minority of college students engage in high-risk drinking, [all] suffer its negative consequences,” said Reverend Edward Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame and co-chair of the Task Force.
       Hingson and other panelists say studies have shown what works - and what doesn’t - in deterring alcohol use.

What Colleges Can Do!

Among the steps that universities can take to create a healthy environment on campus:

  • Enforce existing age 21 laws on campus.
  • Help students understand that they have the right not to drink and to have negative feelings about its consequences.
  • Communicate alcohol policies to students and parents.
  • Limit the availability of alcohol on campus.
  • Use brief motivational interventions, such as giving feedback on students' personal drinking behavior and negative consequences.
  • Increase screening and outreach programs to identify students who could benefit from alcohol-related services.
  • Avoid educational efforts focused primarily on facts about alcohol and associated harm. They have proven to be ineffective.
  • Use educational interventions that provide new information such as informing students about drinking-and-driving laws and explaining how to care for peers who show signs of alcohol poisoning.

Goldman said general messages warning of the dangers of alcohol do not appear to be effective with college students, at least by themselves. What’s more effective is teaching students how to resist peer pressure.
       “Many of the students don’t want to do it, but they don’t know how to say no,” he said.
       Communities and colleges need to work together as well to prevent underage drinking and limit the number of stores that sell alcohol, he said.
       “The university can’t do them by themselves because even if they did effective things, it might just squeeze it off into the community,” Goldman said.
       The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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