About 40% of U.S. college students engage in binge-drinking, over half a million college students a year are physically and/or sexually assaulted by an intoxicated assailant, and alcohol and other drug problems are the most common reason that someone starting college this fall will not have a degree in hand four years later. A high-profile task force called for action against campus binge-drinking almost a decade ago, spurring a range of new prevention, treatment, harm reduction and educational initiatives. Yet the number of campus deaths from drinking has gone up every year since and the rate of binge drinking hasn’t budged.
Stanford is among a number of universities that are working within a new national learning collaborative focused on campus binge-drinking, which has lead me to review a science and practice literature I hadn’t explored until now (College drinking is its own area of study with little connection to my primary research area of addiction). One of the striking things to me as a relative outsider is that many research and intervention efforts concerning college drinking focus exclusively on students who drink. Drinkers are of course one of the groups that shape a university’s culture regarding alcohol, but students who don’t drink also surely play a role.
Making campuses more comfortable places for students who choose not to drink would be good for those students as well for those students who drink in a hazardous fashion. Spurred by a letter from a Stanford student to Dear Abby, I wrote about this possibility today for Stanford School of Medicine’s SCOPE blog.