Deadly facts about teen drinking every parent and educator should know — Why we must teach our kids how to drink responsibly.
It is easy for educators and parents to become overdramatic when warning young students about the dangers of alcohol. Flooded with extensive media coverage of seemingly every college drinking death, their genuine concern can become panic. The truth is, most college students who drink do not binge, and suicide may even be a higher cause of death among this demographic. Nevertheless, one alcohol-related student death is too many, especially since it’s so easily prevented. With that in mind, here are 10 sobering reminders why we need to teach our children how to drink responsibly.
1. Nearly 2,000 students die from alcohol-related injuries each year: Every year, an estimated 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from injuries sustained by excessive alcohol consumption. This works out as nearly one death for every two colleges in America. Incredibly, another 599,000 are unintentionally injured due to the effects of alcohol. Out of 4,140 colleges in the U.S., both public and private, this factors out to 145 injuries for every single campus. (It should be noted, however, that the methodology for finding these statistics has been questioned.)
2. College drinking deaths rose 26.7% from 1999 to 2005: Deaths of students from alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related accidents are certainly nothing new. College administrations have been making strides in educating students about the dangers of binge drinking for years, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be having a positive effect on the number of student drinking deaths. On the contrary, the number is actually rising. The 1,825 deaths calculated in 2005 were an increase of almost 27% from the 1,440 deaths calculated in 1998.
3. Freshmen account for more than one-third of college student deaths: When it comes to alcohol-related deaths, the first year of college is easily the most dangerous. A USA Today study done in 2006 found that although freshman account for only about 24% of the total population of college students, they make up much more than their share of the number of deaths. For example, they accounted for 40% of undergraduate suicides, 47% of undergrad deaths on campus, and half of deaths from falls out of windows and off rooftops. Of these deaths, one out of five was found to have been drinking.
4. Fifty-three percent of college students have experienced depression, and less than one-third seek help: With all the pressure, the separation from family and familiar surroundings, and the lack of sleep college students are faced with, depression is a very common ailment on campus. More than half of college students will experience some form of it, and the majority of them will not seek help. The answer for many is to drown their sorrows in alcohol. A 1998 study found as many as 1.5% of students tried to commit suicide because of drinking and/or drug use.
5. At least one student has died from drinking in college hazing rituals every year for more than four decades: Hazing goes back to at least the 1800s and possibly even before. It’s always been used as a way of putting a person through a trial to earn membership in a select group. But to put it bluntly, if the person is killed, what’s the point? Since 1975, thousands of lives have been needlessly thrown away in hazing rituals, devastating their families and usually spelling the end for the organizations they were trying to join.
6. In 82% of hazing deaths, a huge amount of alcohol consumed is involved: Alcohol is sometimes referred to as “liquid courage,” and it’s plain to see why the vast majority of college student athletes and pledges to fraternities and sororities would need to be brave when going through hazing. It can involve beatings, public humiliation, or simply being forced to chug copious amounts of alcohol. As one researcher, professor Hank Nuwer, put it, “We’re talking levels which would be approaching, basically half of your blood system being filled with liquor.”
7. Chico State University student Matthew Carrington died from binging on water: Because of the amount of negative attention hazing has received in recent years, many schools have banned alcohol from Greek functions. To get around this, many college groups have taken to forcing pledges to drink huge amounts of water or milk, either of which can be lethal in large quantities. In 2009, Matthew Carrington died after water absorbed into his blood after his fraternity mates forced him to drink from a five-gallon jug of water that they kept refilling.
8. 83 of the college student deaths from 1999 to 2005 were of underage students: There is a reason the U.S. has a legal drinking age. Hopefully, at least, people over 20 are better equipped to handle peer pressure and know when to call it quits on a night of drinking. They also have two or three years of college under their belt and don’t need to hit the first party they see and get as drunk as humanly possible. But 83 underclassmen died in six years as a result of alcohol poisoning because they weren’t mature enough to drink responsibly.
9. At a 0.15 BAC, chances of a car crash due to drunk driving are 200 times higher: Although the number of deaths due to college students drinking and driving may have been overestimated in the past, there’s no shortage of students still getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. One in five students admitted to driving drunk in a four-year study that concluded in 2010. No states allow driving at a blood-alcohol level over 0.08%. Even at this level, drivers are still about 10 times more likely to be in a (potentially fatal) car crash.
10. A Colorado State University student died of alcohol poisoning with a BAC of 0.436: On a Friday in 2004, Samantha Spady started drinking at 6 p.m. and consumed an estimated 40 cups of beer and shots of vodka. When she was found the next day, her body had a blood-alcohol level of 0.436, an astronomical figure that the coroner said was probably higher earlier in the evening of her death. The most sobering part of her story is that her friends had no indication she had been poisoned by alcohol and was dying; they had left her in a room “to sleep it off.”