"Extreme" drinking puts college students at risk
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Extreme binge-drinking may be putting college students at significant risk of accidents and injuries, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among more than 2,000 college students with drinking problems, those who admitted to "extreme" drinking -- eight or more drinks in day for men, five or more for women -- were more likely than their peers to have suffered a recent alcohol-related injury.
For each extreme-drinking day a man had in the past month, his risk of a drinking-related injury -- from a fall or "fender bender," for instance -- increased by 19 percent.
That same risk climbed by 10 percent for women, according to findings published online by the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The fact that heavy drinking often leads to accidents and injuries is no secret, but the findings show that the risks continue to "grow rapidly" the more students drink, according to Dr. Marlon P. Mundt and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The researchers also found that students with a "sensation-seeking" personality -- as measured by a standard questionnaire -- were at elevated risk of drinking-related injuries.
"College administrators, parents, and clinicians need to focus their intervention efforts on these students -- 'frequent extreme heavy drinkers' -- who score high on sensation-seeking disposition," Mundt said in a news release from the journal.
"These are the students at high risk for injury," the researcher added. "Quantities alone, or frequency of consumption alone, do not show the whole picture. A drinking pattern of frequent extreme intoxication is key, as it escalates injury rates rapidly."
The findings are based on interviews with 2,090 students at five U.S. universities who had screened positive for risky drinking at their college health clinic. Risky drinking included habits such as drinking on three or more days of the week, and having more than 15 drinks in a week for men, or 12 or more per week for women.
Even within this group, the researchers found, extreme binge-drinking was linked to a substantially higher risk of recent injury.
The findings do not mean, however, that extreme drinkers are the only students at risk, Mundt and his colleagues stress. Lower levels of drinking, they write, should not be seen as "safeguard" against injuries.
SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, online May 26, September issue 2009.
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