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Prevention Programs Don't Decrease Alcohol Problems in Colleges

College alcohol drinking

Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H., and colleagues have published the results of their research which shows that binge drinking, drunk driving, and alcohol-related deaths increased among college students over the first half of the decade. The report is one of 14 published in a special supplement to the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The supplement focuses on college drinking problems.

It would appear that the numerous prevention programs available have failed to decrease alcohol related problems in college age students. The report states that the percentage of students ages 18 to 24 who binge drink rose from 41.7% to 44.7% during the 1999 to 2005 time frame. Drunk driving proportions increased from 26.5% to 28.9% during the same time frame.

The researches looked at data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the CDC, the National Coroner Studies, census and college enrollment data, and the College Alcohol study. limiting the data to the 18 to 24 year olds and the years from 1999 through 2005

For the study, binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one occasion. The study noted it occurred primarily in students ages 21 to 24. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. The greatest increase in non-traffic related alcohol deaths over the study period was unintentional poisoning, which nearly tripled between 1998 and 2005.

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Deaths from injuries related to alcohol consumption (all types – traffic and non-traffic related deaths) increased 3% per 100,000 from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005, although the trend was not significant.

The overall traffic deaths declined 3% over the study period. These death were noted to increase by 5% between 1998 and 2001 and to have decreased a significant 7% between 2001 and 2005. Other deaths not related to traffic accidents increased 25.6% over the study period (including the above mentioned alcohol poisoning).

The authors pointed out that "among 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., injuries are the leading cause of death, and alcohol is the leading contributor, being a factor in more than 5,000 deaths in that age group each year. To place that number in perspective, it exceeds the total number of U.S. soldiers who have died in the war in Iraq."

It is important for parents, colleges, and communities to work together to change the culture of drinking to truly achieve a decline in alcohol related problems.

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Source reference:
Hingson RW, et al "Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18 to 24, 1998-2005" J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2009; 16: 12-20.