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Originally published October 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 26, 2007 at 10:47 AM

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National report suggestions for reducing substance abuse

The following report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University suggests actions that should...

The following report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University suggests actions that should be taken by schools, parents and students, and includes statistics of the toll alcohol and drugs are taking on college kids.

CASA's 10 Key Actions for Colleges and Universities to Prevent and Reduce Student Substance Abuse

(1) Set clear substance-use policies and consequences of violations.

(2) Ban smoking; prohibit alcohol and tobacco ads, sponsorships and promotions on campus; ban alcohol in dorms, in most common areas, at on-campus student parties and at college sporting events.

(3) Screen all students for substance-abuse problems; target high-risk students and times; provide needed interventions and treatment.

(4) Hold student classes and exams Monday through Friday to reduce weekend substance abuse.

(5) Educate faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni about substance abuse and involve them in prevention activities.

(6) Engage students in service-learning courses and community service.

(7) Offer substance-free recreational opportunities.

(8) Include in the academic curricula information about substance abuse and addiction.

(9) Engage community partners in prevention, enforcement, interventions and treatment.

(10) Monitor rates and consequences of student substance use and evaluate and improve programs and services.

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Parents

• Set good examples for children and young adults by not abusing alcohol or prescription drugs, using other drugs or smoking.

• Talk with your children about substance use from an early age and continue these conversations through college. Have a comprehensive discussion about substance use — its risks, your expectations, and the consequences you will enforce should they violate the rules — during the summer before their departure for college.

• Set clear expectations and disapproval of underage drinking, alcohol abuse, smoking and other drug use in both high school and college.

• Get help fast when children show signs of trouble with substances or related mental-health problems.

• Work with your child's school (e.g., by serving on campus task forces, requesting notification of substance-use policy violations) to prevent and reduce drinking and alcohol abuse, smoking and other drug use and their resulting consequences.

Students

• Accept responsibility for your own health and respect the rights of others by not drinking if underage, drinking excessively if of age, smoking or using other drugs.

• Learn the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, the health and career consequences, and where to turn if you develop a problem.

• Get help fast for peers in need.

• Get engaged in solving the problem of student substance abuse.

The numbers

From: "Wasting the Best and the Brightest: Substance Abuse at America's Colleges and Universities," a new report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, March 15, 2007. The comprehensive 231-page report, the result of more than four years of research, surveys, interviews and focus groups, is the most extensive examination ever undertaken of the substance-abuse situation on the nation's college campuses:

• 49 percent (3.8 million) of full-time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription and illegal drugs.

• 22.9 percent (1.8 million) of full-time college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence, two and one half times the 8.5 percent of the general population who meet these same criteria.

The report finds that from 1993 to 2005 there has been no real decline in the proportion of students who drink (70 to 68 percent) and binge drink [no change at 40 percent]. However, the intensity of excessive drinking and rates of drug abuse have jumped sharply:

· Between 1993 and 2001 the proportion of students who binge drink frequently is up 16 percent; who drink on 10 or more occasions in a month, up 25 percent; who get drunk at least three times a month, up 26 percent; and who drink to get drunk, up 21 percent.

· Between 1993 and 2005 the proportion of students abusing prescription drugs increased:

343 percent for opioids like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin;

93 percent for abuse of stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall;

450 percent for tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium;

225 percent for sedatives like Nembutal and Seconal.

· Between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of students who:

o Use marijuana daily more than doubled to 310,000.

o Use cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs (except marijuana) is up 52 percent to 636,000.

Consequences of Abuse

Consequences of substance abuse on college campuses include:

· 1,717 deaths from unintentional alcohol-related injuries in 2001, up six percent from 1998;

· A 38 percent increase from 1993 to 2001 in the proportion of students injured as a result of their own drinking;

· A 21 percent increase from 2001 to 2005 in the average number of alcohol-related arrests per campus. In 2005, alcohol-related arrests constituted 83 percent of campus arrests;

· 97,000 students were victims of alcohol-related rape or sexual assaults in 2001;

· 696,000 students were assaulted by a student who had been binge drinking in 2001.

These statistics come from a variety of analyses using the best and most recent data available.

Other key findings:

· Rates of daily smoking among college students dropped from 15 percent in 1993 to 12 percent in 2005 and of daily heavy smoking (half a pack or more a day) from 9 percent in 1993 to 7 percent in 2005. More than 1.8 million full-time college students are current smokers.

· Fraternity and sorority members are likelier than nonmembers to drink (88 versus 67 percent), binge drink (64 versus 37 percent), drink and drive (33 versus 21 percent), use marijuana (21 versus 16 percent) or cocaine (3 versus 1.5 percent), smoke (26 versus 21 percent).

· 37 percent of college students fear social stigma attached to substance abuse, which keeps them from seeking help. Only 6 percent of students who meet medical criteria for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence seek help.

· 78 percent of college students who use illicit drugs have sexual intercourse compared to 44 percent of those who never use drugs.

For more information: www.casacolumbia.org

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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