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College Students and Alcohol Abuse: New Resources Can Help

College Kids sitting on the grass

From curbing binge drinking to reducing drunk driving, NIH research is developing new intervention tools and techniques to help colleges, students, and their parents cope more effectively with alcohol abuse.

Fast Facts

  • About four out of five college students drink, including nearly 60 percent of students between 18 and 20.
  • More than 40 percent of all college students report engaging in binge drinking at least once during the previous two weeks.
  • About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.
  • Almost 700,000 students ages 18 to 24 are assaulted each year by another student who has been drinking. More than 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • New NIH research is helping colleges and college students reduce these grim statistics.

To Find Out More

Research funded by the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that over a recent seven-year stretch, alcohol-related deaths among U.S. college students, as well as heavy drinking and drunk driving, all rose. Drinking-related deaths increased, particularly among 18-to-24-year-olds. Most of these deaths were from traffic injuries, and the increases were primarily from alcohol-related poisonings.

"These are tragic, unacceptably high rates," says Ralph W. Hingson, Sc.D., director of the NIAAA Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. "There is an urgent need for colleges and college communities to put in place prevention and counseling programs that focus on underage and young-adult drinking."

NIAAA has created "rapid-response grants" to explore and demonstrate the wide range of individual, group, and community-level approaches that "can influence student behavior and challenge the culture of college drinking," adds Dr. Hingson.

Through the grants, NIAAA researchers worked with 15 colleges facing alcohol-related crises, pairing them with five research teams of prevention and intervention experts.

"The challenge is to make sure the public is aware that there are measures that work," Dr. Hingson says. "We also have to change the entire culture: Who are the kids getting the alcohol from at such early ages? Parents? Siblings? Friends? Drinkers who start young are not only more likely to develop dependence, but at a faster pace."

On the positive side, Dr. Hingson notes that progress is being made in support and intervention programs in colleges across the country. He believes that the same kind of public pressure and support that brought about seatbelt laws eventually will help to curb college alcohol abuse.

NIAAA Tools You Can Use

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has developed two free, online Web sites that provide people with information on all aspects of alcohol and drinking.

  • Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health site:
    For anyone who drinks alcohol, this Web site offers valuable, research-based information. Using interactive tools, it can help you take a look at your drinking habits and how they may affect your health? It covers everything, from learning what counts as a drink to finding out whether your own drinking pattern may be risky.

Comments from Social Drinkers

Social drinkers who used the resources and information from NIAAA's "Rethinking Drinking" Web site offered these and other comments:

"Sometimes we do things out of habit and we don't really stop to think about it. This made me think about my choices."

"It emphasized that drinking is not bad in and of itself—it's how much you're doing it and how it's affecting your life."

"I thought the strategies for cutting down were really good. It gives you tools to help yourself."

Fall 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 4 Pages 24 - 25