- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

An estimated 1,400 college students die each year and another 500,000 are injured in alcohol-related accidents, according to a National Institutes of Health study released yesterday.
The study also estimates that alcohol consumption by college students contributes to 70,000 cases of sexual assaults or date rape annually. In addition, an estimated 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having had unprotected sex as a result of drinking.
"These numbers paint a picture of a deeply entrenched threat to the health and well-being of our young people," said Raynard Kington, acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which helped conduct the study.
"This study is an urgent call-to-action for educators, researchers, students and society in general."
General campaigns warning of the dangers of alcohol have not been effective, researchers who conducted the study said yesterday. It is better to teach students to resist peer pressure, show them how alcohol may interfere with academic goals and strictly enforce minimum-age laws.
"If colleges and communities work together, they can change these harmful drinking patterns," said Mark Goldman, a professor of psychology at University of South Florida and NIAAA co-chairman.
Drinking rates are highest among incoming freshmen, males, athletes and members of fraternities and sororities, the study said. Students who attend two-year institutions, religious schools, commuter schools, or predominantly or historically black colleges drink the least.
Researchers said they hope the latest numbers change the views of people who see drinking on campus as merely a rite of passage.
"All you have to do is look at a couple of cable television channels who cover spring break where endless groups of drunken students get up and say 'I'm having the greatest time here' and then you recognize on the basis of these statistics what the fallout of the great time is," said the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame and NIAAA co-chairman.
The study by the NIAAA, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, was conducted by a federally appointed task force, whose members were researchers, college presidents and students. The task force plans to distribute the report to college presidents.
Task force members said the study was the most comprehensive report on the consequences of college-student drinking. Researchers integrated various databases and survey results to reach their findings.
The report, however, did not say whether the problems were increasing or decreasing. A report released recently by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that binge drinking had increased on all-women's campuses, while it remained the same elsewhere.
According to the study, motor-vehicle fatalities were the most common form of alcohol-related deaths. Students who died in other alcohol-related accidents, such as falls and drownings, were also included in the report. Those who died as a result of homicides or suicides were not.
University of Rhode Island President Robert Carothers, a task force member, said the new study will help colleges target prevention programs to specific areas, notably fraternities and sororities. He said the Greek system's focus on drinking has "damaged the lives of many fine young people."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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