There’s been a heated discussion going about the possibility of lowering the minimum legal drinking age in the US down to 18. There’s also been a surge of research studies that evaluated the consequences of such a change. Recently, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) released some statistics on college drinking.
- The number of alcohol-related deaths in 2005 was 1,825, up from 1,400 in 1998. This is mainly due to traffic-related accidents involving 18 to 24-year old students.
- Binge drinking (heavy episodic drinking) increased from 42% to 45%.
- Incidence of drunk driving increased from 26.5% to 29%.
The figures were published in a supplement to the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
According to NIAA acting director Dr. Kenneth Warren
“This supplement is a valuable resource that underscores the growing number of research-driven strategies that college administrators and health officials can put in place to address serious student drinking problems.”
The figures seem to indicate that despite having one of the highest minimum legal age for drinking alcohol in the world, the US seems to be having major alcohol-related problems among college students.
However, it’s not all bad news. It seems that preventing these problems is possible and prevention programs in the colleges themselves seem to be effective. Here are some examples of these programs:
- On campus counseling. Northeastern University counselors report on the effectiveness of an assistance program that helps students with alcohol problems alter their behavior. The one-to-one counselling helped students use “coping skills.”
- Community law enforcement. Two studies report the effective use of law enforcement – in the form of increased police patrols – on campus as well as off campus (surrounding community). These programs resulted in reduced drinking off campus.
- On campus motivational enhancement. College officials at the University of Central Florida believe in motivational interviews which seem to work well among high risk drinkers. Researchers at the Loyola Marymount University in LA report that the long-term effectiveness of this approach is limited and needs to be regularly boosted up.
Many experts believe that a combination of these strategies will effectively counteract alcohol-related problems on as well as off campus.
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