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Two New Initiatives Address College High-Risk Drinking

By Celia Vimont

Two new initiatives are bringing college leaders and experts together to tackle the seemingly intractable problem of college high-risk drinking.

One new initiative to address the problem, the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, includes 32 institutions, and is led by Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim. The group will use comprehensive evaluation and measurement techniques to identify and implement the most effective ways to confront college drinking and lessen its harmful effects.

The second initiative is the NIAAA's Presidents Working Group, a group of college presidents who will advise the institute. The group was created to bring national attention to college drinking, and to make recommendations to college administrators. It is co-chaired by Dartmouth's Dr. Kim, and Dr. Robert Carothers, immediate past president of the University of Rhode Island. The group held its kickoff meeting in May.

These initiatives are the latest attempts to curb college drinking. In 2008, more than 130 college and university presidents signed onto the Amethyst Initiative, which advocates lowering the national drinking age from 21 to 18. In April 2002, NIAAA released a series of reports from its Task Force on College Drinking. The Task Force found that successful interventions occur at three levels: reaching individual students, the student body as a whole and the greater college community. The Task Force also grouped commonly used intervention strategies into four tiers, from most to least effective.

Close to 40 percent of college students in the United States engage in binge drinking, and that number has remained virtually unchanged for decades. Almost 2,000 college students in the U.S. die each year from alcohol-related injuries. An estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).