by Michael P. Haines*
Unfortunately, every year, people die because of the risks they take. Each year, student deaths are reported related to various factors: rock climbing, drinking, bicycling, hunting, basketball, flying, meningitis, swimming, depression, jogging and, most commonly, driving.
This year, the media had a feeding frenzy about alcohol related deaths among students. I have been wondering why all this media attention now, when it could have been reported that:
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) data collected annually by the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan, the "Percent of students who used alcohol in the last twelve month" is at the lowest point of any time during the seventeen years that data has been kept. Students who abstain from alcohol use (during preceeding twelve months) has more than doubled.
At the very same time that media and institutional attention to collegiate "binge" drinking is at a national high, binge drinking on campus is at the lowest level since this behavior has been tracked. Both ISR data and CORE data show the same results: Students who reported drinking "five or more drinks at an occasion during the last two weeks" is at the LOWEST LEVEL since either the CORE (1989) or the ISR (1980) began recording this information.
Why has the CORE Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, and the AMA not celebrated this information? As far as I am concerned, to see "binge" drinking at an all time low and alcohol abstinence at an all time high is some of the best news on the college horizon in the last twenty years. Our research suggests that spreading this information should help support and enhance protective drinking norms on campus while challenging the false norms that "Everybody's getting drunk. Nobody cares."
It is public information, and it is available at this web site.
Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan:
Michael Haines is Coordinator of Health Enhancement Services at Northern Illinois University, where he has pioneered in developing effective ways to reduce alcohol abuse. His work has been cited as exemplary by the Harvard University School of Public Health and the United States Department of Education.
*Reprinted by permission of Michael Haines