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Colleges Failing at Curbing Binge Drinking

By August 28, 2013

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Beer Drinker If you are sending children off to college this year you may not find much comfort in the fact that most colleges are failing miserably in trying to curtail dangerous binge drinking on campus and in their communities. In fact, many colleges and universities do not even know what works and what doesn't in preventing binge drinking.

One survey shows that a majority of colleges ignored evidence-based government recommendations to cut down on excessive drinking by students.

In 2002, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) issued a detailed report, "A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges," that outlined the seriousness of the college drinking problem and presented recommendations for prevention efforts which were based on scientific evidence for effectiveness.

NIAAA Recommendations to Colleges

Simplified, those recommendations to colleges included:

  • Implementing one of a list of brief intervention programs shown to reduced binge drinking in at-risk students - those who have alcohol-related health or legal problems.

  • Working with the local community to reduce the drinking "culture" in the college town with effective alcohol control strategies such as eliminating low-price specials, reducing the number of retail alcohol outlets, monitoring illegal alcohol sales and training for beverage servers.

Proven Effective Strategies

Although these recommendations were shown by at least two scientific research studies each to be effective in reducing the harm of student drinking, they have mostly been ignored in the eight years since their release.

A study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health showed that about only half of the 351 colleges and universities surveyed offer any brief intervention programs for at-risk students.

Additionally, only 33% of the schools survey had worked with their communities to develop any alcohol-control measures. The survey also revealed that one in five college administrators had never heard of the 2002 NIAAA report.

On the other hand, almost all of the schools surveyed offer an "alcohol educational program." The problem? That same NIAAA report found that those programs, by themselves with no other efforts, are ineffective.

College Drinking Consequences

College drinking is a big problem. Here are the latest NIAAA statistics:

  • 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die annually from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.

  • An estimated 600,000 college students are accidentally injured while under the influence of alcohol yearly.

  • 97,000 students a year are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

  • Almost 25% of college students report having academic difficulties due to their drinking.

If you are a parent paying tuition for your child to attend college, you might want to ask exactly what the school is doing to try to change the drinking culture in their community.


Nelson, T.F., et al. "Implementation of NIAAA College Drinking Task Force Recommendations: How Are Colleges Doing 6 Years Later?" Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. October 2010.

Hingson, R. et al. "Magnitude of Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity Among U.S. College Students Ages 18-24: Changes from 1998 to 2001." Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 26, 259-79; 2005.

Related Information:

Photo: BigStockPhoto.com
August 11, 2010 at 10:32 am
(1) Kensington says:

The statistics are frightening. With all the guidance offered to help deal with this, it’s surprising that so few schools actively take part in trying to address it.

It’s important for parents to know that often teen binge-drinking increases the summer before they go off to college, as discussed in this article:


August 20, 2012 at 11:56 am
(2) Kyle says:

Why do students drink so much?

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