1Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS).
Binge drinking is defined by researchers as drinking five or more drinks in a row for men and four drinks for women.1 It is generally understood by most people as too much alcohol in too little time.
Approximately two out five college students are binge drinkers, according to the most recent Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Fifty-one percent of male students drink five or more drinks in a row. Forty percent of female students drink four or more drinks in a row. Since 1993, the proportion of students who binge drink (44 percent) has remained stable. However, the number of frequent binge drinkers — students who binge three or more times in a two-week period — rose from 20 to 23 percent. Students more likely to binge drink are white, age 23 or younger, and are residents of a fraternity or soroity.2
2College Binge Drinking in the 1990s: A Continuing Problem; Journal of American College Health, Vol. 48, March 2000.
Alcohol is involved in two-thirds of college student suicides and 95 percent of violent crime on campus.3 Underage drinking is a major factor in nearly all the leading causes of death and injury for youth ages 5-25: automobile crashes, homicide, suicide, injury, and HIV infection.4 Students who frequently binge drink were 21 times more likely than non-binge drinkers to:5
- Be hurt or injured
- Drive a car after drinking
- Get in trouble with campus or local police
- Engage in unprotected sex
- Engage in unplanned sexual activity
- Damage property
- Fall behind in school work
- Miss class
3Eigan, Lewis. Alcohol Practices, Policies and Potentials of American Colleges and Universities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1991.
4Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Cost of Underage Drinking. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention, 1999.
5College Drinking in the 1990s: A Continuing Problem; Journal of American College Health, Vol. 48, 2000, pp 199-210.
Alcohol is involved in 90 percent of campus rapes, according to Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.6 A study on campus rape published in the Journal of American College Health found 73 percent of the assailants and 55 percent of rape victims used alcohol or other drugs prior to the assault.7
7National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, 1994.
7Meilman, Phillip W. Alcohol-Induced Sexual Behavior on Campus. Journal of American College Health 42, 1993.
Three out of four non-binge drinkers and abstainers who lived in dormitories or fraternities and sororities reported experiencing at least one second-hand effect from binge drinking. The 1999 Harvard survey found that:8
- 23% had experienced an unwanted sexual advance
- 11% had been pushed, hit or assaulted
- 36% had been insulted or humiliated
- 16% had property damaged
- 71% had sleep or study interrupted
8Wechsler H., Lee J. Kuo M., and Lee, H., Harvard School of Public Health, 1999.
The beer, wine, and distilled spirits spend at least $4 billion each year ($11 million each day) on promotional activities, including advertising and sponsorships.9 Each year, college students spend about $5.5 billion on alcohol, mostly beer. This is more than they spend on books, soda, coffee, juice, and milk combined.10 While no precise estimates exist for costs to society associated strictly with binge drinking, estimates are available on the costs related to underage drinking. The annual overall costs of alcohol use by those under 21 is estimated at more than $58 billion dollars, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This estimate, based on current health and criminal justice data, assigns costs associated with violent crime, traffic crashes, treatment, and alcohol poisonings, among other variables.11
9Federal Trade Commission. Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry: A Review of Industry Efforts to Avoid Promoting Alcohol to Underage Consumers. Washington, D.C., 1999.
10Eigan, Lewis. Alcohol Practices, Policies and Potentials of American Colleges and Universities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1991.
11Pacific Institute for research and Evaluation. Costs of Underage Drinking. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention, 1999.
Women are at higher risk than are men for serious medical conditions associated with alcohol use. Women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men. Because they have less body water and achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in their blood after drinking the same amount as men, women are more likely to develop liver damage and to die from cirrhosis, and are more vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage and heart damage. In addition, research studies show that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer.12
. . .
When alcohol is involved, womens' risk of becoming victims of violent crime increases. Among college students in particular, about 10 percent who are frequent binge drinkers report being raped or subjected to nonconsensual sex, compared to only 3 percent of non-binging female students.13
12National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alcohol Alert, No. 46, "Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol's Effects?," 1999.
13Wechsler H., Lee J. Kuo M., and Lee, H., Harvard School of Public Health, 1999.