Binge drinking, college environment linked

July 12th, 2008 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 12 (IANS) Heavy drinking was found to be common in college environments that have a strong drinking culture, few alcohol control policies and weak enforcement of existing policies. These findings are based on a survey of more than 50,000 students in 120 colleges between 1993 and 2001, by Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS).

During its 14-year existence, the CAS focused attention on widespread binge drinking at American colleges and the ensuing serious health and social consequences to drinkers, fellow students and neighbours.

“Our study drew attention to the heavy drinking of students, most of whom were not considered alcoholics or in need of traditional treatment, but nevertheless experienced problems as a result of their drinking,” said CAS director Henry Wechsler.

Students who binge drink - defined by the CAS as five or more drinks in a row for males, and four or more drinks for females, on a single occasion in the past two weeks -are more likely to experience a wide range of problems, including academic difficulties, social conflict, risky sexual behaviour, risky driving behaviour, vandalism, injury and alcohol overdose.

Binge drinkers were also more likely to engage in other risk behaviours such as tobacco and illicit drug use. Students who binge drink frequently were most likely to experience these problems.

CAS research also drew attention to the problems that drinkers cause for others on and around campus. The “second hand” effects of alcohol use, similar to the concept of second hand smoke, helped people understand that student drinking is harmful to the larger campus community.

While some students chose to enrol in a college because it has a party reputation, CAS research found that campuses that emphasize intercollegiate athletics and fraternity and sorority life have higher levels of binge drinking.

The review study appeared in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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