The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday August 12th

Local Officials Respond to College Alcoholism Survey

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a study, released April 9, that states that about 40 percent of college students are classified as binge drinkers -- a finding that parallels last year's information.

The study defined binge drinking as five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more in a row for women.

The study states that the most at-risk students are freshmen, white men, fraternity and sorority members, athletes and those attending schools with a popular sports team.

But Chapel Hill police crisis coordinator Matt Sullivan said that from a policing perspective that it is hard to pick out those who are binge drinkers. "The citations we give out have nothing to do with how much you drink," Sullivan said. "It's more how you bring yourself to public attention."

Sullivan added that it is difficult to pick out those in at-risk groups like athletes or fraternity and sorority members, noting that the cause of binge drinking among these individuals also should be considered. "A lot of the binge drinking on campus is stress-related," he said.

Chapel Hill police spokeswoman Jane Cousins said the police department works with fraternities and sororities, among other groups on campus, to educate them on the dangers of alcohol.

"We try to do a lot to publicize the problem," Cousins said. "Officers give presentations about the dangers of alcohol and driving."

Statistically, the number of tickets given for underage alcohol possession has increased over the past year, rising from 92 in the 1999-2000 fiscal year to 114 in 2000-01, Cousins said.

But Cousins warned against using the data to draw conclusions about drinking habits in Chapel Hill because she said a number of the other variables, such as staff shortages, come into play to determine how many drinking tickets are given out. In addition, it's hard to decipher which tickets are given to students and which are not, she said.

In terms of student drinkers, Sue Kitchen, vice chancellor for student affairs, said UNC students rate slightly below the 40 percent binge drinking level.

Kitchen cited 1999 and 1997 Breathalyzer studies at UNC which found that on any Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, two out of three students have a zero percent blood alcohol level.

But Kitchen said that although the percentage and types of students found to be binge drinkers in the NIAAA study are probably accurate, classifying students as binge drinkers is not as important as more practical concerns.

"We are most worried about drinking that puts students at risk rather than spending a lot of time thinking about the percentage of students who are binge drinking."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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