This brochure for college peer educators and resident advisors contains highlights
from the report, A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S.
Colleges. The report was developed by the National Institutes of Health
National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Task Force on College
The Task Force was composed of college presidents, alcohol researchers, and
students. It conducted an extensive analysis of the research literature in order
to provide the most up-to-date and credible science-based information on college
The scope of the college drinking problem
The effectiveness of intervention programs currently used by schools and
Recommendations for college presidents and researchers on how to improve
these interventions and prevention efforts
A Snapshot of Annual High-Risk College Drinking Consequences
The Task Force integrated several national databases and compiled a list of
statistics that present a new and more complete picture of college
drinking consequences. The first step in addressing this problem is to recognize
it for what it is—a public health issue for the Nation, which particularly
impacts young adults.
Death: Over 1,400 students ages 18 to 24 die from alcohol-related
unintentional injuries including motor vehicle crashes.
Injury: 500,000 students ages 18 to 24 are unintentionally injured
under the influence of alcohol.
Assault: More than 600,000 students ages 18 to 24 are assaulted by
another student who has been drinking.
Sexual Abuse: More than 70,000 students ages 18 to 24 are victims
of a sexual assault or date rape in which alcohol is involved.
Unsafe Sex: 400,000 students ages 18 to 24 have unprotected sex and
more than 100,000 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented
to having sex.
High-Risk College Student Drinking
High-risk college student drinking includes the following:
Drinking and driving or other activities where the use of alcohol
Drinking when health conditions or medications make use dangerous
Binge drinking; that is, 5 drinks in a row per occasion for males
and 4 for females*
*Moderate drinking by persons of legal age is defined as no more
than 2 standard drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic
consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing
poorly on exams and papers, and receiving lower grades overall. More than
1 million or slightly more than 25 percent of college students report academic
problems linked to alcohol use.
Health Problems and Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 students
develop an alcohol-related health problem and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent
of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year
due to drinking or drug use.
Drunk Driving: 2.1 million students between the ages of 18 and 24
drove under the influence of alcohol last year.
Vandalism: About 11 percent of college students report that they
have damaged property while under the influence of alcohol.
Property Damage: More than 25 percent of administrators from schools
with relatively low drinking levels and over 50 percent from schools with
high drinking levels say their campuses have a "moderate" to "major" problem
with alcohol-related property damage.
Police Involvement: About 5 percent of 4-year college students are
involved with the police or campus security as a result of their drinking
and an estimated 110,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are arrested
for an alcohol-related violation such as public drunkenness or driving under
Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: 31 percent of college students met
criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6 percent for a diagnosis of
alcohol dependence in the past 12 months, according to questionnaire-based
self-reports about their drinking.
What are potential signs of a problem?
Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities
Specific school problems such as poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent
Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as driving a
Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested
for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone
Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are
caused or worsened by drinking
Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability, and defensiveness
Peer educators should know:
How can you identify problem, at-risk, or dependent drinkers?
How is the body affected by alcohol consumption?
What are the drinking laws in your State and community?
What are your school's alcohol policies and procedures?
What are the possible consequences if a student breaks the law
Physical or mental problems such as memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot
eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech
Why is the Task Force reaching out to peer educators?
You are trusted by classmates to provide reliable answers and accurate information,
regardless of the health topic.
You have hands-on knowledge that enables you to interpret the report from
a different perspective.
You are a very important link between the administration and student body.
You can assist college presidents in reducing underage/excessive drinking.
Your input can make college alcohol prevention programs more successful.
A Call to Action for Peer Educators/Resident Advisors
You can help reduce underage and excessive drinking in a variety of ways. The
following commonsense suggestions, along with your creativity and rapport with
peers, can be strong tools for you to make a difference on your campus.
Become involved in the review and assessment of current alcohol programs
Understand and become active in implementing strategies that target the
entire study body, the campus and surrounding community environment, and the
individual at-risk, problem, or alcohol-dependent student drinker.
Work with the administration (through your health center) to help plan and
implement interventions. For example, Alcohol Screening Day occurs every April—does
it happen on your campus? An online screening tool always available to you
The proportion of college students who drink varies depending on where they
live. Drinking rates are highest in fraternities and sororities, followed by
on-campus housing (e.g., dormitories, residence halls). Students who live independently
off-site (e.g., in apartments) drink less, while commuting students who live
with their families drink the least.
A number of environmental influences working in concert with other factors
may affect students' alcohol consumption. Schools where excessive alcohol use
is more likely to occur include:
Schools where Greek systems dominate (i.e., fraternities, sororities)
Schools where athletic teams are prominent
Schools located in the Northeast
The first 6 weeks of enrollment are critical to first-year student success.
Because many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college,
the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful
adaptation to campus life. The transition to college is often so difficult to
negotiate that about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their
Established Drinking Patterns
Although some drinking problems begin during the college years, many students
entering college bring established drinking practices with them. Thirty percent
of 12th-graders, for example, report binge drinking in high school, slightly
more report having "been drunk," and almost three-quarters report drinking in
the past year. Colleges and universities "inherit" a substantial number of drinking
problems that developed earlier in adolescence.
Secondhand Consequences of Drinking
Students who do not drink or do not abuse alcohol experience secondhand consequences
from others' excessive use. In addition to physical and sexual assault and damaged
property, these consequences include unwanted sexual advances and disrupted
sleep and study. The problems produced by high-risk drinking are neither victimless
nor cost-free. All students—whether they misuse alcohol or not—and
their parents, faculty, and members of the surrounding community experience
the negative consequences of the drinking culture on U.S. campuses.
Other Factors Affecting Drinking
Biological and genetic predisposition to use
Belief system and personality
Expectations about the effects of alcohol
Availability of alcohol in the area surrounding a campus
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