- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

CLEVELAND - His name is Ben, and he is a campus drunk trying to stay sober amid a lot of chances to party.

The 19-year-old, sticking with his first name in the style of Alcoholics Anonymous, knows how to party. He learned to drink in the fifth grade in Cleveland. By high school, he was drinking at least three nights a week, sometimes having 20 drinks of beer, gin and tequila.

“Every time I had time, I would drink,” said Ben, gently petting the mutt that he and his housemates at Case Western Reserve University have adopted.

Now in college, Ben is trying to stay away from booze, and Case Western is doing its part by offering him a spot at a “recovery dorm.”

The residence — with sparse landscaping and bare-bones furniture — looks like a fraternity house, only cleaner and lacking a beer keg on the back porch. It is the university’s experiment to help students with drinking and drug abuse problems cope with the high-pressure environment of school.

Although many campuses have housing for nonsmokers and nondrinkers, student residences for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are rare. Officials at Rutgers University, which pioneered the idea, know of only three or four such recovery dorms nationwide.

An estimated 1,400 college students die each year in alcohol-related incidents, most involving car accidents. A government study released in 2003 said binge drinking — defined as having five or more drinks in a sitting — was climbing fastest among 18- to 20-year-olds.

Evidence shows that campus recovery programs can make a difference. Michigan’s Grand Valley State University, which in August landed a $127,000 federal grant to expand programs including AA meetings six days a week, said its five-year-old program has cut frequent binge drinking 59 percent. The number of moderate or nondrinking students was up 19 percent.

Case Western’s Recovery House opened in September on a quiet street between campus and the Little Italy neighborhood. No markings indicate its role, allowing students to keep their personal struggles confidential.

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