A new study shows that alcohol abuse among Indiana University Bloomington (IU) students has significantly decreased, even as alcohol abuse among college students across the nation is on the rise. The study, conducted by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) at Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, shows that the percentage of students who consumed more than five drinks in a week went from 42.8 percent in 2006 to 37.5 percent in 2009, a 12.4 percent decrease.
“In the past, our rates have been higher than the rest of the country,” said Dee Owens, director of IU’s Alcohol-Drug Information Center in the Division of Student Affairs. “Now, instead of looking at our numbers going up or just staying steady—which is considered a great success—we saw our numbers go down in every category,” she said.
The 2008-09 ICAN (Indiana Collegiate Action Network ) survey, combined with the results of the previous two years’ CORE surveys, also showed that the percentage of students who engaged in binge drinking in the previous two weeks went from 60.3 percent in 2006 to 56.8 percent in 2009 (a 5.8 percent decrease), and that the percentage of students who have experienced legal troubles or received disciplinary action in the previous two weeks went from 15.3 percent in 2006 to 12.3 percent in 2009 (a 19.6 percent decrease). In addition, the percentage of students who have driven while intoxicated went from 38.4 percent in 2006 to 22.6 percent in 2009, a 41.1 percent decrease.
A meta-analysis from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which uses numbers from government databases and national surveys, showed that alcohol abuse on college campuses nationwide has increased over the past 10 years. The number of alcohol-related deaths among 18- to 24-year-olds rose from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005, while binge drinking saw a 3 percentage point increase in the same time period, from 42 percent to 45 percent.
Owens attributes the success of lower numbers at IU Bloomington to two primary factors: a widespread “Get a ride! Just don’t drink and drive” campaign created and supported by Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal, and the institution of AlcoholEdu, a required online course for all incoming IU Bloomington freshmen and transfer students. The two to three hour interactive class varies by individual, depending on how questions are answered.
“We want everybody who comes to campus to receive accurate education to start. The choices students make after that are up to them, but they can no longer say ‘Gosh, we didn’t know that,’” Owens said.
With help from a two-year grant through IPRC/HPER, researchers conducted two CORE surveys from 2006-2008, switching to the state-funded ICAN survey in 2008 (numbers were confirmed as comparable between the two surveys).
The ICAN survey is funded through a federal block grant from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction through the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, of which Owens is president. The CORE surveys and AlcoholEdu were funded by the federal Department of Education for two years; AlcoholEdu is now funded by the IU Parents’ Association.
“We do know from research that students form their behaviors in the first six weeks of class. If we can front-load information, we can help shape those behaviors,” Owens said.