How Much Are College Students Really Drinking?Ted Burgess
Every year, there is a story or two about drinking on college campuses. It usually focuses on a tragedy due to some sort of fraternity or sorority event. Of course, these sensationalized stories focus on the tragedy at hand and then talk about the amount of drinking on college campuses. This is a huge concern for me, personally, because I end up defending a lot of college students accused of driving under the influence. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and studies from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Core Institute paint a very stark picture when it comes to college drinking and binge drinking in particular.
How much are college kids drinking? A lot – at least according to these self-reported surveys.
According to Core Institute study participants:
- Seventy-two percent of college students reported having a drink in the past 30 days, and 84% had a drink in the past year.
- In the under-21 crowd, 69% had used alcohol in the past 30 days, and 82% had in the past year.
- Freshmen reported drinking an average of more than five and a half drinks per week; 45% also reported binge drinking in the past two weeks.
- Thirty-three percent of freshmen reported an increase in their drinking since entering college.
- Seventy-nine percent of fraternity members felt that drinking is a central part of social life.
- Seventy-two percent of sorority members felt that drinking is a central part of social life.
The biggest problem with the Core study is that it is a self-report. People aren’t always truthful when they are asked to self-report things, even anonymously. In this case, the self-reporting is likely to have trended higher because of the attitudes of the students toward drinking. Drinking in college is seen as socially acceptable and, in some cases, a requirement for being part of the “in crowd.” It’s this attitude that really stands out in the survey.
That leads to the real problem, which, according to the NIH, can be seen in the estimated number of injuries and deaths attributed to alcohol in this particular subset of society.
- It is estimated that nearly 600,000 students between 18 and 24 are accidentally injured while under the influence of alcohol every year.
- Among students of the same age range, 1,825 are killed in alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes and through other unintentional injuries.
- The most shocking number is the estimated 3,360,000 students ages 18 to 24 who drive under the influence of alcohol.
The NIH numbers made me shake my head – especially the estimated number of students who drink and then drive. When police and government officials see numbers like that, they get worried. If they are true, there is good reason to target and pull over young adults who might be swerving or otherwise driving erratically. This is one of the arguments that is brought up all the time to defend DUI stops in the LA area. Of course, being part of the college student demographic shouldn’t make you a target for unwarranted searches. Unfortunately, it might. If it does, call me – I can help.
By Ted Burgess