College Drinking Problem Continues to Rise

The consumption of alcoholic beverages is considered by some to be synonymous with the college experience. For some however, it becomes a serious problem. In fact, a new government study has shown that alcohol-related deaths, heavy drinking episodes and drunk driving have all been on the rise on college campuses.

According to a Science Daily release, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has determined that the number of drinking-related accidental deaths among 18- to 24-year old students has been increasing.

The NIAA used figures from government databases and national surveys on alcohol use and found that these deaths increased from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005. At the same time, the proportion of students reporting recent binge drinking rose from 42 percent to 45 percent. Drunk driving also rose from 26.5 percent to 29 percent.

“The fact that we’re not making progress is very concerning,” says lead researcher Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H., in the Science Daily piece. Hingson is the director of the NIAAA’s division of epidemiology and prevention research.

“The irony,” he added, “is that during this same time period, our knowledge of what works as far as intervention in this age group has increased. That knowledge isn’t yet being put into place.”

Hingson and his colleagues are working with 15 college campuses to develop programs to combat the growing problem. These programs range from the individual level to the community level. Each program offers a variety of benefits, although a mix of programs may offer the best overall solution.

Legislation may also make an impact as studies have shown reversal in drinking trends that correspond with new laws that address the issue. Adjustments to legal alcohol limits when driving as well as state laws that set the legal drinking age at 21 have been shown to reduce alcohol-related deaths.

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