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Numbers, history used to drive home alcohol point

In an effort to curb student drinking, campuses around the country are becoming more involved in preventative programs for students. However, looking at recent statistics, these programs seem to have little effect.

According to USF psychology professor Dr. Mark S. Goldman, approximately 1,400 college students die annually from alcohol-related incidents. Of those deaths, nearly 1,100 are due to car accidents, while the remaining 300 are attributed to alcohol poisoning or similar conditions. On Thursday, Goldman discussed the ongoing problem of alcoholism in modern society, with a specific focus on college students and the historical ties that encourage excessive alcohol consumption in a lecture entitled “Alcohol Use in the United States: The Force and its Dark Side.”

Alcoholism is a problem that has been overlooked for centuries, he said. When the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, people looked to alcohol as a means to avoid drinking contaminated water. In that time, alcoholics were largely ignored because of the communal atmosphere of the colonies. However, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, alcoholics garnered negative attention as the church started to label excessive alcohol consumption as work of the devil. The religious fervor surrounding alcoholism brought about Prohibition, which lasted from 1920-1933 and also cultivated a criminal stigma in regard to alcohol consumption in general.

At the end of Prohibition, an era of patent medicines developed, and many alcoholics sought medicinal treatment, thinking their alcoholism was a sickness. In the late 1930s, scientists began to research the effects of alcohol, and in 1971 the National Health Institute followed the same path with a research center of its own.

As of today, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) receives $430 million a year to research treatments for alcoholism.

Dealing with alcoholism is complex, and treatment can take on many forms. Thus far, researchers have looked to molecular biology, genetics, sociology and psychology for possible causes and cures for alcoholism but have yet to develop a definite solution for it. Scientists have found ways to help slow the rate of diagnosed cases of alcoholism in the United States, Goldman said.

As far as researchers know, college drinking can be linked to many sources, from alcohol advertisements to simply having a sensation-seeking personality. Recent social marketing campaigns indicating that students are drinking less have failed to convince students to think twice about their own consumption. For this reason, Goldman believes that research-based prevention programs should be used on campuses nationwide in an effort to curb student drinking. For more statistics or program information, visit