Local News

Study Suggests College Drinking Not Big Problem At UNC

Posted October 8, 2003

— More than 70,000 students attend major universities in the Triangle alone. If the findings of some experts are right, more than half of those students binge drink. Those studies were based on surveys where students self-reported their drinking habits, but a

6-year breakthrough study

by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center uses actual data and tells a different story.

"We don't have drunken masses on this college campus and, in fact, I'm sure we don't have them on any college campuses or darn few college campuses in this country," researcher Robert Foss said.

Researchers gave Breathalyzer tests to more than 6,000 students. The study revealed that two out of three students had no alcohol in their systems on Thursday through Saturday nights. It also showed that reports of binge drinking were exaggerated.

"I felt it had been exaggerated to where that was the only level of drinking going on. There wasn't social drinking. It was either binge drinking or no drinking at all and I didn't feel that was accurate," student Kristin Denmark said.

In 1999, researchers launched a campaign to educate UNC students that campus drinking was not widespread. The goal was to help alleviate peer pressure. Researchers believe the tactic decreased campus drinking by 15 percent.

"The point of a social norms program isn't to preach. It's not to threaten. It's not to scare," Foss said. "It's simply to acquaint people with the truth about drinking and how common it is or is not."

Students claim the results are a more true reflection of the university than the "Animal House" myths.

"I'm not surprised [about the results]. I don't think the students will be surprised," said Jay Anhorn, director of Greek Affairs. "I think, in fact, they will be relieved that finally there is research to prove what they've already known for years."

For the purpose of this study, heavy drinking or binge drinking was defined as someone who has 5 or more drinks. UNC researchers say only a small group of students fit into this category. Just 7 percent of those tested in 2002 had a blood-alcohol level above a .10.

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