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Alcohol has wide impact on campus, study reports

WASHINGTON (BP)–A deeply ingrained culture has developed on American college campuses that promotes the drinking of alcoholic beverages, with thousands of deaths, injuries, sexual assaults and health problems among the results each year, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found the following results were true on a yearly average:

— 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries.

— 500,000 students are accidentally injured while under the influence of alcohol.

— More than 600,000 college students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking.

— More than 70,000 students are sexually assaulted or date-raped by people who have been drinking.

— More than 100,000 students say they were too drunk to know if they willingly had sexual relations.

— 2.1 million students drive under the influence of alcohol.

— 31 percent of students qualify for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6 percent for alcohol dependence.

— More than 150,000 students report a health problem related to drinking alcohol.

— About 25 percent say they have academic problems stemming from alcohol use.

“The consequences of excessive drinking are far too common on many college campuses nationwide, and efforts to reduce high-risk drinking and its related problems have largely failed,” task force co-chair Mark Goldman of the University of South Florida said in a written release.

The study, based on data from a variety of sources, reports students who drink the most include first-year students, males, whites, athletes and fraternity and sorority members. Students who drink the least are found at religious schools, two-year institutions, commuter schools and historically black schools, according to the report.

Although recent studies show the percentage of college students who abstain from alcohol has increased from 15 to 19 percent between 1993 and 1999, binge drinking has become a concern, according to the report. About 40 percent of students binge drink. Binge drinking is defined as consuming at least five drinks in a row for men and at least four in a row for women. About 20 percent of students say they have binged more than three times in the last two weeks, according to the report.

The NIAAA report, released April 9, came two weeks after another study revealed there had been a significant increase in binge drinking at schools for women. Between 1993 and 2001, students who binge drink at women’s colleges grew from about 24 to 32 percent, according to a report from the Harvard School of Public Health. There was a 20 percent decrease in abstainers at these schools. There also was a sharp rise in frequent binge drinkers from 5 to 12 percent, the study reported.

The NIAAA report recommended prevention efforts that focus on at-risk students, the student population overall, and the college and surrounding community. Among strategies that are effective or show promise, according to the report, are enforcement of minimum drinking-age laws, limitations on the number of alcohol retail outlets near campus, the expansion of alcohol-free dormitories and the reinstatement of Friday classes and tests.

The report, titled “A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges,” may be accessed at www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.