A Preliminary Investigation of College Students' Alcohol Consumption at Two Universities with Limited Greek Systems

Article excerpt

At 2 moderately sized, public, urban universities with limited Greek systems, 1,246 college students completed the CORE Survey (C. A. Presley, R. Harrold, E. Scouten, R. Lyerla, & P. W. Meilman, 1994). Serious alcohol-related behaviors and concerns were noted. Implications of findings and suggestions for addictions counselors are presented.

The number of Americans abusing alcohol is staggering. Approximately 1 out of 10 Americans experiences significant problems with alcohol (e.g., alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence; Miller & Brown, 1997). Thirty-two million Americans are binge drinkers (National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 1997). These individuals consume five or more alcoholic drinks in a single sitting, one to four times per month. Eleven million Americans are heavy drinkers (NIDA, 1997). NIDA reported that heavy drinkers consume five or more alcoholic drinks during a single sitting on five or more occasions per month.

American college students are not immune to dysfunctional alcohol consumption and related drinking behaviors (Presley & Meilman, 1992; Wechsler, Issac, Grodstein, & Sellers, 1994). The dysfunctional consumption of alcohol by college students was reported even during the early periods of American history and is recognized as a tradition in European American culture (Rorabaugh, 1981). These same behaviors of dysfunctional consumption of alcohol by college students have been demonstrated consistently throughout the last 20 years (Engs, 1977; Engs & Hanson, 1987; Igra & Moos, 1979; Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1988; Presley & Meilman, 1992; Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Grossman, & Zanakos, 1997; Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994; Wechsler & Dowdall, 1995; Wechsler & Issac, 1992; Wechsler & McFadden, 1979). This prevalence of collegiate alcohol abuse was summarized succinctly in Steenbarger's (1998) literature review in the Journal of College Counseling and is again noted in the 1999 CORE Institute Survey (CORE Institute, 2000a).

The CORE Institute's 1999 survey contains data obtained from 65,033 undergraduate students attending 2- and 4-year colleges in the United States (CORE Institute, 2000a). These data indicate that 85% (n = 55,343) of students surveyed by CORE had used alcohol at least once within the preceding 12-month period and that 72% (n = 40,061) of those who used alcohol within the preceding 12month period had used alcohol one or more times within the preceding 30-day period. Forty-seven percent (n = 30,435) of all 1999 CORE Survey participants had consumed five or more drinks, in a single sitting, within 2 weeks of their survey participation (CORE Institute, 2000a). Participants who had used alcohol in the 12 months prior to their participation in the 1999 survey also reported that their alcohol use in that time period had directly resulted in (a) hangovers, 63% (n = 34,755); (b) nausea or vomiting, 54% (n = 29,774); (c) arguments or fighting, 31% (n = 16,934); (d) loss of memory, 33% (n = 18,907); (e) missing class, 33% (n = 18,152); and (f) being taken advantage of sexually or being injured, 20% (n = 11,068). Additional problematic behaviors in the preceding 12 months that resulted from alcohol use were also reported. For example, 31% (n = 17,156) of these students drove a car while being under the influence, and 39% (n = 21,583) had done something they later regretted.

Dysfunctional consumption of alcohol by college students and related drinking problems were also noted in the recent Harvard School of Public Health 1999 College Alcohol Study (Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee, 2000). This study surveyed 14,000 students enrolled at 119 colleges and universities across the United States (Wechsler et al., 2000). Two out of 5 survey participants (44%) exhibited behavior that met the criteria for binge drinking (Wechsler et al., 2000). Binge drinking in this study was defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row, for men, and four or more drinks, for women, at least one time in the 2 weeks prior to participation in the survey (Wechsler et al. …