June 16 -- MONDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Binge drinking among American college students is on the rise, along with its consequences of drunk driving and drinking-related deaths, U.S. health officials report.
In fact, drinking-related deaths among students aged 18 to 24 years have increased steadily from 1,440 a year in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005, according to a report from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Binge drinking also increased during this time, with the proportion of students who said they'd binged on alcohol in the past month going up from 42 to 45 percent.
The proportion of students who admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol rose from about 26 to 29 percent, according to the report.
"Unfortunately, what we see is the proportions of college students who engage in binge drinking has increased," said lead researcher Ralph Hingson, director of the institute's division of epidemiology and prevention research.
"There's a whole culture that needs to be changed around drinking and driving under the influence among young people in the United States," he said. Adding to the problem is that alcohol is cheap and many alcohol beverage makers target high school and college students, Hingson said.
Often the problem begins before college. "The younger people are when they first become intoxicated," he said, "the greater the likelihood that when they are in college they will meet alcohol-dependence criteria: that they will drive after drinking; that they will ride with drinking drivers; they will be injured under the influence of alcohol; or they will have unplanned and unprotected sex after drinking."
To reach their conclusions, Hingson's team used information from government databases and national surveys on alcohol use. Their report appears in a supplement to the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Not only are the people who binge drink putting themselves at risk, but their drinking can have serious consequences for others, Hingson said.