Drinking Among Underage Persons Compared with Those Aged 21 or Older
According to the 2000 NHSDA, an estimated 46 million persons aged 12 or
older were binge drinkers. Of these, almost 7 million were younger than 21,
the legal drinking age. The proportion of underage persons aged 12 to 20 who
were binge drinkers (19 percent) was similar to that among adults aged 21 or
older (21 percent) for whom alcohol use is legal. The percentage of underage
persons who binged on alcohol increased with age, from 1 percent of 12 year
olds to 39 percent of 20 year olds (Figure 1). Youths aged 12 to 16 had
lower rates of binge drinking than the total population aged 12 or older,
but persons aged 17 to 20 were more likely to report binge drinking during
the past 30 days than the total population aged 12 or older.
The difference between males and females was less among those aged 20 or
younger (21 percent males vs. 16 percent females) than among those aged 21
or older (30 percent males vs. 13 percent females) (Figure 2). Underage
females were more likely to report binge drinking (16 percent) than were
females aged 21 or older (13 percent). Among underage persons, fewer Asians
and blacks reported binge drinking than Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska
Natives, or whites.
Binge Drinking on Campus
Among young adults aged 18 to 22, the rate of binge drinking was higher
among full-time college students (41 percent) than among those who were not
enrolled full-time as college students (36 percent) (Figure 4). The rate of
binge drinking increased with age among 18 to 21 year olds but was lower
among 22 year olds regardless of college enrollment status. Differences in
binge drinking rates by college enrollment status were greater for 19 and 20
year olds than others in this age group. The highest rates of binge drinking
among full-time college students and other persons were among 21 year olds.
Source: SAMHSA 2000 NHSDA.
Five binge-drinking deaths 'just the tip of the
By Robert Davis, USA TODAY
This month has been deadly for binge-drinking college students.
Five underclassmen in four states appear to have
drunk themselves to death, police say, after friends sent their pals to bed
assuming that they would "sleep it off."
Some college presidents are promising to crack down
on underage drinking — four of the students were too young to drink
legally. Others have shut down fraternity houses where bodies were found.
But one expert calls those moves too little, too
late. "It's locking the barn door after the horse has been
stolen," says Henry Wechsler, a Harvard University researcher who has
studied campus drinking. He says schools with weak enforcement of drinking
rules put students at greater risk.
"The schools that have the greatest problems
take the easiest solutions," he says. "They have educational
programs and re-motivation programs. But they don't try to change the
system. These deaths are just the tip of the iceberg."
In some college towns, drink specials at bars and
loose enforcement of liquor laws make it easier and cheaper for students to
get drunk than to go to a movie, Wechsler says. The result, research
suggests, is 1,400 student deaths a year, including alcohol-related falls
and car crashes.
"Some schools enforce," he says. "But
others have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. It's a wink."
Others say schools can't stop a young adult who
chooses to drink.
Drinking problems start in high school and are simply
let loose in college, says the American Council on Education, a
Washington-based advocacy group that represents about 1,800 colleges and
"Shouldn't colleges crack down on alcohol
consumption?" asks Sheldon Steinbach, ACE's general counsel. "They
could. But you would be turning the college into a quasi-police state and
impairing their ability to grow up."
All of these students, last seen drinking heavily,
were found dead:
• Samantha Spady, 19, of Beatrice, Neb., was found
Sept. 5 in a Colorado State University fraternity.
• Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr., 18, of Dallas, was found
Sept. 17 at a University of Colorado fraternity house.
• Thomas Ryan Hauser, 23, a junior from
Springfield, Va., was found Sept. 19 in his apartment near Virginia Tech.
• Blake Adam Hammontree, 19, of Medford, Okla., was
found Sept. 30 in a fraternity house at the University of Oklahoma.
• Bradley Barrett Kemp, 20, of McGehee, Ark., was
found at home Saturday at the University of Arkansas.
The official cause of death has not been determined
for the three most recent cases.
Colleges with large Greek systems and big, highly
competitive intercollegiate athletic programs have the highest rates of
student binge drinking, Wechsler says. "There is a culture of drinking
on campuses that must change," says Patty Spady, Samantha's mother.
"People put her in a room thinking that she would sleep it off."
But chug too many drinks — Samantha is said to have
consumed up to 40 beers or shots of vodka the night she died — and the
blood alcohol level continues to rise even after a person passes out.
Alcohol kills when the person is too intoxicated to maintain his own airway.
He then suffocates on his own vomit or on an otherwise harmless obstruction,
such as a pillow.
"These kids don't know this," says Spady,
who set up a foundation (SAMspadyfoundation.org) to find ways to prevent
deaths on campus. "Drunks cannot take care of drunks." Spady urges
students to "stay sober to take care of your friends."
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