Alcohol is rated as the single most harmful of all abused substances, ranking higher than heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine.

collegeA new study, published by the University of Alabahma at Birningham School of Public Heath, has revealed that each year 1,825 college students ages 18-24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle collisions.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as four drinks in two hours for women and five drinks in two hours for men. More than one-third of college students engage in binge drinking monthly.

Six hundred and ninety six thousand students between the ages of 18-24 are assaulted every year by another student who has been drinking and 97,000 students between the ages of 18-24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape each year.

“Alcohol abuse, binge drinking in particular, is thought to be a rite of passage for college students; but in reality it’s a very serious health epidemic in the United States,” said Peter Hendricks, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Alabama at BirminghamSchool of Public HealthDepartment of Health Behavior. “It is important to understand what alcohol is, why it’s problematic, and what a person can do to minimize the risk should they choose to drink.”

“Alcohol leads to impulsive decisions and can be addictive,” Hendricks said. “Even though it’s legal for those 21 years of age and older, college students should be aware of the dangers of drinking alcohol.”

Critical signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Hypothermia

“As BAC increases, so does alcohol’s effects and the risk for harm,” McMurray said. “Even small increases in BAC can decrease coordination, make a person feel sick and impair judgment. This can lead to injury from falls or car crashes, leave one vulnerable to sexual assault or other acts of violence, and increase the risk for unprotected, unintended intercourse.”

“When BACs get even higher, amnesia or blackouts occur. If a person has signs of alcohol poisoning, it is very dangerous to assume that an unconscious person will be fine bysleeping it off”, McMuray said.

“Alcohol is ingrained in our culture, and binge drinking is perceived as a lighthearted, fun and humorous rite of passage among college students,” Hendricks said. “It’s crucial to communicate the dire risks of binge drinking and challenge the notion that alcohol use is a normal and harmless part of the college experience”.


David J Nutt, Leslie A King, Lawrence D Phillips. Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. The Lancet, 2010; 376 (9752): 1558 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61462-6



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