Of 9 Million College Students, 1.2 Million Drink Alcohol on Any Given Day

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According to a new federal study, 1.2 million full-time U.S. college students out of a total population of 9 million had an alcoholic beverage on an average day and nearly 240,000 part-time college students out of 2 million drank alcohol on an average day.

On an average day, some 2,179 full-time students had their first taste of an alcoholic beverage and another 453 part-time students had their first drink of alcohol.

The data come from a report published last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The data has been collected since 1991 on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that “offers insight into substance use and treatment among the civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 12 or older, including young adults in college. The current report presents information about substance use among full-time and part-time college students aged 18 to 22.

Here are some data points from the report:

  • Full-time college students who used alcohol in the past month drank an average of 4.1 drinks per day on the days on which they drank.
  • Full-time college students who used alcohol in the past month drank on an average of 6.4 days per month.
  • Part-time college students who used alcohol in the past month drank an average of 3.8 drinks per day on the days on which they drank.
  • Part-time college students who used alcohol in the past month drank on an average of 6.4 days per month.
  • Nearly 5.4 million full-time college students (60.1% of this population) drank alcohol in the past month, with 3.5 million (39%) engaging in binge drinking and 1.2 million (13.2) engaging in heavy alcohol use.
  • For part-time college students, 1.1 million (56.4% of this population) drank alcohol in the past month, with 707,000 (35.5%) engaging in binge drinking and 207,000 (10.4%) engaging in heavy alcohol use.
  • Some 9.9% of full-time college students drank alcohol for the first time in the past year.
  • Another 8.9% of part-time college students drank alcohol for the first time in the past year.

The report also noted:

This comparison [of full-time to part-time students] revealed that the average number of alcoholic drinks consumed by full-time college students slightly exceeded the average number of drinks consumed by part-time college students on days on which they drank alcohol; however, the levels of binge and heavy alcohol use indicate that this is a concern in both populations. Many full-time and part-time college students engaged in binge drinking and in heavy alcohol use.

Methodology: All estimates in this report are annual averages based on combined 2011 to 2014 NSDUH data. Because NSDUH data were combined from multiple years, the estimates that are presented in this report represent annual averages. In the combined 2011 to 2014 NSDUH data, there were about 25,400 college students aged 18 to 22 who participated in the survey, of whom 21,000 were full-time students and 4,300 were part-time students.9 These sample sizes represent an annual average of 9.0 million full-time students and 2.0 million part-time students. Read more at the SAMHSA website.

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