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The Daily Tar Heel

Study: Drinking Kills 1,400 Students

The report on college drinking, prepared by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, states that alcohol use yearly results in 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault and date rape among college students between the ages of 18 and 24.

The institute task force has developed a threefold framework of preventative strategies to confront the problem. The three areas being targeted are the student population, the college and surrounding community and individuals who are at-risk or alcoholic.

Members of the institute's Task Force on College Drinking are sending a copy of the report to every college in the country, hoping that administrators will adopt solutions to combat alcohol abuse.

Task force coordinator Fred Donodeo said the agency collected information from several credible databases that had already gathered information on alcohol use among college students.

Donodeo said final figures pointed out that the consequences of alcohol abuse are actually higher than most researchers originally thought.

He pointed to the increase in rapes, car accidents, overdoses and assaults prompted by irresponsible alcohol usage.

Donodeo said the task force is geared toward ways to solve the problematic results rather than trying to evaluate drinking habits.

"We are focused on the consequences rather than amount of alcohol consumed," he said.

The report calls for stricter enforcement of minimum-age drinking laws, formation of campus and community coalitions, facilitating long-term campus community research and altering student expectations about the effects of alcohol.

He said UNC already has implemented similar programs to the solutions the task force is recommending.

Dean Blackburn, UNC coordinator of substance abuse services, said he is surprised by the national findings. "The statistics at Carolina are much lower than the national average," he said.

Surveys in 1997 and 1999 found that two out of three UNC students came home Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a 0.0 blood alcohol level. He said there is a difference between perception and reality in how many students on campus drink. "The reality is many students don't," Blackburn said.

He said he is trying to change the atmosphere on campus by promoting alcohol-free events so students are not pressured into drinking.

Blackburn said there are numerous options for students on campus to get help for alcohol problems, including counseling, alternative activities, education and group outreach. "I am alarmed by the national figures," he said. "It indicates that we are doing something right at Carolina."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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