Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Among First-year College Students

This document examines the problem of problem drinking among freshman college students. It looks at the scope of the problem and potential responses. While it’s focus is pretty narrow, it offers a lot of helpful information for other communities as well.

National surveys find that about two in five U.S. undergraduates engage in heavy drinking, which is typically defined as having five or more drinks in a row at least once in a two-week period. According to survey data compiled by the Core Institute in 2004, 45.3 percent of freshmen nationally can be classified as heavy drinkers. The same data indicate that 17.7 percent are heavy and frequent drinkers, meaning that they engaged in at least one episode of heavy drinking in the previous two weeks and drank on three or more occasions per week.

The negative consequences associated with college alcohol use are legion, including personal injury, physical illness, high-risk sexual behavior, and death. Research estimates that 1,700 college students ages 18–24 die annually from alcohol related unintentional injuries. Nearly 80 percent of those deaths are associated with driving after drinking. In 2001, just over 10 percent of college students reported being injured, while 8 percent reported having unprotected sexual intercourse because of their drinking.

It also offers detailed guidelines for keeping first year students safe:

Provide Alcohol-free Options.

  • Create and promote alcohol-free events for fi rst-year students.
  • Support student clubs and organizations that are substance-free.
  • Create and promote service learning and volunteer opportunities.
  • Require community service work as part of the academic curriculum.
  • Open or expand hours at a student center, recreation facilities, or other alcohol-free settings.
  • Promote consumption of nonalcoholic beverages and food at events.

Create a Healthy Normative Environment.

  • Offer a greater number of substance-free residence halls.
  • Promote faculty-student contact.
  • Require students to meet regularly with academic adviser.
  • Require students to meet regularly with resident assistant.
  • Employ older resident assistants.
  • Prohibit fraternity and sorority rush for fi rst-year students.
  • Require students to take more morning and Friday classes.

Restrict Alcohol Availability.

  • Require all social events during orientation to be “dry.”
  • Require fi rst-year students to live on campus.
  • Disseminate responsible host guidelines for both on- and off-campus parties.
  • Install a responsible beverage service program.
  • Train alcohol servers and managers to stop service to underage or intoxicated students.
  • Train alcohol servers and managers in the latest techniques and technologies for recognizing false IDs.
  • Eliminate residence hall delivery of alcohol purchases.
  • Advertise food and activities, such as dancing or sports, rather than drinking as the focus of the event.

Restrict Marketing and Promotion of Alcohol.

  • Ban alcohol promotions with special appeal to underage drinkers.
  • Ban advertising of high-risk promotions.

Strengthen Policy Development and Enforcement.

  • Review campus alcohol and other drug policies and strengthen where necessary.
  • Disseminate campus alcohol and other drug policies and publicize their enforcement.
  • Require on-campus functions to be registered.
  • Impose tough penalties for possessing a fake ID.
  • Enforce minimum legal drinking age laws.
  • Increase ID checks at on-campus functions and parties.
  • Use decoy operations at campus pubs and on-campus functions.
  • Increase ID checks at off-campus bars and liquor stores.
  • Use decoy operations at retail alcohol outlets.
  • Enforce seller penalties for sale of liquor to minors.
  • Support local and state enforcement in imposing driver’s license penalties for minors violating alcohol laws, and in changing driver’s licensing procedures and formats.
  • Notify parents of their children’s rules violations.