High-intensity drinking rates highest among college students


During a bout of high-intensity drinking, a person might drink 10 or more drinks, and a recent Institute for Social Research study has found that this kind of drinking is reported mostly among college students.

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About 24 percent of respondents aged 19 and 20 reported drinking five or more drinks on a single occasion, 10 percent reported drinking 10 or more, and 4 percent reported drinking 15 or more on a single occasion in the last two weeks. These rates were highest among men and among full-time college students who did not live with their parents.

Understanding these drinking patterns could help college administrators understand how to better address high-intensity drinking.

“For many people, the definition of binge drinking — five or more drinks during a single occasion — didn’t really resonate as problematic,” said the study’s lead author Megan Patrick, a research associate professor in ISR’s Survey Research Center. “By reporting rates of high-intensity drinking, which is a more severe and rarer behavior, it may be possible to help college administrators boost the effectiveness of their campaigns.”

Young adults who don’t attend college or who live with their parents while they attend school don’t report the same elevated level of high-intensity drinking.

“College attendance is associated with a freedom from adult responsibilities,” Patrick said. “Students, if they’re living with their parents, might not have the same opportunity to drink as students living on campus or in student housing.”

Monitoring the Future surveys 15,000 12th-grade students annually, and a subsample from each year is chosen for longitudinal follow-up. Patrick’s study follows the high school students who participated starting in 2005, when questions about high-intensity drinking were first included.

Monitoring the Future is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Patrick’s study is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


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