Alcohol on campus: alcohol-related emergencies in undergraduate college students

S W Wright, V C Norton, A D Dake, J R Pinkston, C M Slovis
Southern Medical Journal 1998, 91 (10): 909-13

OBJECTIVES: We reviewed demographic factors associated with alcohol-related disorders in undergraduates seen in the emergency department (ED) and determined the incidence of alcohol-related ED visits among undergraduates.

METHODS: This prospective, observational study was done in a university-affiliated emergency department. Demographic variables and incidence of students with alcohol-related disorders were analyzed.

RESULTS: Of the 616 students seen in the ED during 1 academic year, 101 (16%) had an alcohol-related disorder. White students and freshmen were overrepresented. There were equal numbers of male and female students. The overall annual incidence for an alcohol-related visit among undergraduates was 1.7% per academic year. The incidence for freshmen was 2.9%. Four students were admitted; one died of a severe head injury.

CONCLUSIONS: We estimate that 1 of every 15 undergraduates at our college comes to our ED with an alcohol-related problem during their 4-year college career. Younger and nonminority students were more commonly seen; there was no difference by sex. Serious outcomes included one death. This study probably underestimates the true incidence of alcohol-related disorders among students on campus.

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