Pediatric Research Team at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Hopes to Reduce College Problem Drinking

September 26, 2003

Pediatric researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center hope to reduce college problem drinking and the problems associated with drinking through a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Robert H. DuRant, Ph.D., a pediatric researcher at Brenner Children’s Hospital and principal investigator of the grant, and his team will work with three colleges or universities nationwide and one traditionally African American college located in North Carolina to determine what practices are needed to reduce excessive drinking on campus. The program is titled, “Research Partnership Awards for Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems.”

“We hope to develop individual plans for each college campus after we have identified the unique characteristics of each institution,” DuRant said. “For example, some colleges allow tailgaiting before ballgames, and at other institutions, problem drinking occurs primarily at fraternity and sorority parties or party houses off campus. We plan to look at each institution’s unique areas and work with them and the NIAAA to design plans to meet each campuses’ specific needs.”

DuRant’s team is one of a handful of teams nationwide awarded funding to work with college campuses. Each research team specializes in a certain area -- from targeting individual students who show signs of excessive drinking to working with the campus and community at-large to change policies and social environmental factors that will control problem drinking behaviors. DuRant’s team will work with campuses and local communities to help combat the issue, which has been cited as one of the greatest problems on college campuses.

“Recent studies have shown that the students who choose to drink are engaging in excessive drinking,” he said. “That’s the group we want to target – those who are high risk drinkers.”

DuRant and his team of researchers believe by reducing excessive alcohol consumption, they can reduce the injuries associated with problem drinking, such as injuries from falls, fighting, and driving while intoxicated.

The NIAAA found that drinking among college students contributes to about 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 sexual assaults every year, he said.

About 40 percent of college students reported drinking four or five more drinks in a row one or more times in the last two weeks and of those who drank, students listed the primary reason they drank was to get intoxicated, according to a recent college drinking survey.

“We know that certain things work – such as establishing compliance checks for places that sell alcoholic beverages to students -- and we anticipate that some of the plans will be the same from college to college.

But our overall goal is to curb problem drinking among students and to change or influence social norms on college campuses.

Many college and university presidents are concerned about drinking on their campuses and many already have some measures in place to help prevent accidental deaths and injuries,” DuRant said. “Our goal is to take a look at what is working and devise a plan that others can use.”

This is the second grant DuRant and his team has received from the NIAAA. Last September, DuRant was awarded a $3.2 million grant to study the prevention of problem drinking on college campuses. The 2003 grant, which will be administered over five years, will further address the complexities of alcohol abuse on campuses nationwide.

The team is comprised of researchers from the Department of Pediatrics and Pubic Health Sciences at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.


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