College Students and Alcohol

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College Students and Alcohol

College student drunkenness is far from new and neither are college and university efforts to control it. What is new, however, is the potential to make real progress on this age-old problem based on scientific research results. New research-based information about the consequences of high-risk college drinking and how to reduce it can empower colleges and universities, communities, and other interested organizations to take effective action. Hazardous drinking among college students is a widespread problem that occurs on campuses of all sizes and geographic locations. A recent survey of college students conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health reported that 44 percent of respondents had drunk more than five drinks (four for women) consecutively in the previous two weeks. About 23 percent had had three or more such episodes during that time. The causes of this problem are the fact that students are living by themselves no longer with parents or guardians; they earn their own money; students need to be a part of a group, be accepted; and they have the wrong idea that to feel drunk is "cool."

Although high-risk drinkers are a minority in all ethnic groups, their behavior is far from a harmless "rite of passage." In fact, drinking has pervasive consequences that compel our attention. The most serious consequence of high-risk college drinking is death. The U.S. Department of Education has evidence that at least 84 college students have died since 1996 because of alcohol poisoning or related injury—and they believe the actual total is higher because of incomplete reporting. When alcohol-related traffic crashes and off-campus injuries are taken into consideration, it is estimated that over 1,400 college students die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. Additionally, over 500,000 full-time students sustain nonfatal unintentional injuries, and 600,000 are hit or assaulted by another student who has...
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