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Binge-Drinking Collegians at High Risk for Injuries

Mix in a thrill-seeking personality, and they're much more likely to be hurt than peers, study says

FRIDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- College students who frequently drink to extremes and are inclined to be thrill-seekers are more likely to be physically injured as a result of their alcohol use, a new study shows.

U.S. researchers found that students who binged heavily on alcohol at least four days a month were five times more likely to be physically hurt than their peers. Male students who had at least eight drinks on each of these drinking occasions and females who had a minimum of five drinks on each of these occasions were considered "frequent extreme heavy drinkers" in the study.

Students who scored high on a sensation-seeking disposition test, which measures one's willingness to take risks for the thrill of the experience, had a greater chance of suffering an alcohol-related injury, the researchers found. Previous studies had also found ties between sensation-seeking dispositions, hospital emergency department visits for alcohol-related injuries, and driving while under the influence of alcohol, one study researcher said.

"College administrators, parents and clinicians need to focus their intervention efforts on these students -- 'frequent extreme heavy drinkers' -- who score high on sensation-seeking disposition," the study's corresponding author, Marlon P. Mundt, assistant scientist in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's department of family medicine, said in a news release issued by the university. "These are the students at high risk for injury. Quantities alone, or frequency of consumption alone, do not show the whole picture. A drinking pattern of frequent extreme intoxication is key, as it escalates injury rates rapidly."

For their study, Mundt's team interviewed 2,090 students who had sought care for alcohol-related injuries at five college health clinics, and asked them about their drinking habits over the previous four weeks and other drinking-related injuries suffered in the past six months.

The findings, expected to be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, are available through the journal's online Early View site.

Legal and underage drinking is rampant on most college campuses and, according to a previous study's estimate, resulted in more than a half million injuries to U.S. students in 2001. Alcohol-related injuries resulted in the deaths of more than 1,700 college students in that same year, Mundt noted.

"Approximately 2.8 million U.S. college students drove under the influence of alcohol in the past 12 months, and 600,000 U.S. college students were hit or assaulted by a student who was under the influence of alcohol," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about college drinking.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison, news release, May 22, 2009

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