If binge drinking was a disease that caused 1,400 deaths, 500,000 injuries, 70,000 sexual assaults, and 110,000 arrests each year, you could be certain that the response would be massive and comprehensive.

How many more students must die before we decide to stop treating binge drinking as a collegiate rite of passage, and confront it as the serious public health threat that it is?

Dwayne Proctor, Ph.D.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Commentary on www.jointogether.org



FACT:  Anywhere from an estimated 1,400 to 4,000 Americans die each year either as the          direct result of alcohol overdose in or incidents where alcohol poisoning was
         mentioned as a contributing cause of death. 

FACT:  About 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning occur each year which require either an               emergency room visit or an inquiry to a poison center.

FACT:   A significant number of alcohol overdoses happen to young adults and                            teenagers who indulge in binge drinking.  In 2007 the U.S. Surgeon General issued             a “Call to Action” to reduce binge drinking among teenagers and college students,             asking for a national strategy to “address the nation’s worst youth drug problem.”


The size and the extent of the problem are greater than most people realize.  But unfortunately it is difficult to find statistics specific to alcohol overdose as being the only cause of death.  In some cases, people overdose on alcohol in combination with other drugs.  Sometimes people with lethal blood alcohol levels are involved in fatal automobile accidents.  But, even with the variance in statistics from source to source, all statistics indicate that alcohol overdose is a serious public health problem — particularly, since these lives could have been saved if people had known how to respond.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, about 1,300 Americans die each year either as the direct result of alcohol overdose in or incidents where alcohol poisoning was mentioned as a contributing cause of death.

Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID), an organization which has studied alcohol poisoning since the early 1990’s, states the figures as being much higher — that about 4,000 deaths occur each year in which alcohol overdose is a contributing factor.

Alcohol abuse by college students is getting worse. A study released in March 2007 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that 3.8 million full-time college students, or 49 percent, regularly abuse drugs or binge drink.

In "Healthy People 2010," which sets public health goals through the year 2010, the Federal government has singled out binge drinking among college students for a specific, targeted reduction by the year 2010.  The Surgeon General’s report notes: "Binge drinking is a national problem, especially among males and young adults” and additionally states that “widespread societal expectations that young persons will engage in binge drinking may encourage this highly dangerous form of alcohol consumption.”