Binge drinking rises nationwide


It’s not just UI students with a drinking problem.

The binge-drinking rate, as well as alcohol-related crimes and fatalities, rose on college campuses nationwide over the past decade, according to a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism released June 15.

Despite the discouraging statistics, UI senior Josh Carpenter isn’t fazed much by them or his drinking-related legal problems.

“[It] hasn’t overall affected me that much,” he said.

Carpenter recalls being stopped by an Iowa City police officer the summer before his freshman year. He was charged with drunk driving and had “a little bit of jail time and a pretty hefty fine.” Exactly $2,500, said the now senior.

Binge drinking landed Carpenter in jail and resulted in a fine again in fall 2008. In another run-in with Iowa City law enforcement, Carpenter was charged with public intoxication while downtown.

Carpenter is still off the road, though he is now eligible for a license. But he said there is no need for a license on and near the UI campus anyway; luckily, everything is within walking distance.

The number of students nationwide admitting to drinking and driving in the past year has increased from 26.5 percent to 29 percent, according to the national study.

On average, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes, according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website.

Staff at UI Hospitals and Clinics do not track the number of alcohol-related visits, said UIHC spokesman Tom Moore. Though the staff members do note incidents — such as alcohol poisoning— the hospital system does not organize records in such a manner that the numbers can be found.

But local law enforcement does keep track. Between January and May, Iowa City police have made 192 OWI arrests. While it isn’t known how many of those charges were UI students, 37 — roughly 20 percent — were under the legal age.

Although Carpenter said he believes he is “limited to the scope of jobs,” he said he faced no consequences from the UI.

According to the latest alcohol report, the number of students who reported “binge drinking” — heavy, episodic alcohol consumption — rose from 42 percent to 45 percent in the past year.

But Greg Thompson, the manager of residence life operations, said the “UI is already above the national average” for the number of students who binge drink. University officials are continually re-evaluating and adding more alternatives to drinking, he said.

Like the UIHC, Thompson said, residence-life employees do not track the number of drinking-related incidents in the dorms. And although they haven’t necessarily seen an increase, he said, they continue to see alcohol-related problems.

Resident assistants are taught to spot alcohol poisoning, how to react to a heavily-intoxicated resident, and when to call the paramedics, Thompson said. Being unresponsive usually warrants a call for emergency medicine.

Resident assistants should “err to the side of safety of the students,” he said.

Despite increasingly problematic statistics, researchers said the trend is occurring as knowledge of what works and what doesn’t is also increasing.

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