New collaborative attempts to tackle underage drinking at Maryland schools

By Anika Reed

Image from greek.umd.edu

A new collaborative between higher-education institutions in Maryland will support Maryland colleges in attempting to address excessive drinking amongst their students.

Dr. Amelia Arria, director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Heath, is co-leading the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, which brings together presidents of 10 institutions across the state of Maryland.

“The collaborative is a group of dedicated campuses that have demonstrated leadership on the issue with more evidence-based discussion on how to attack the problem,” Arria said. “We’re committed to do things at an individual level and also at the community level…while limiting access and availability to underage drinking.”

The collaborative wants to use scientific evidence combined with administrative actions to supplement the services the university already has in place to combat alcohol-related dangers, including a mandatory alcohol education course for all freshmen.

Sophomore family science and sociology double major Kimberly Gregory thinks additional police and more on-campus sober events instituted by Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, do not help the cause. “I think that with the added measures against drinking, students want to go out that much more,” Gregory said.

Junior mechanical engineering major James Spencer Lundh agreed with Gregory. “There are many factors that influence this alcohol use, including peer pressure, stress relief and the elusive, taunting drinking age of 21, which increases the desire of many to drink,” he said.

“[Drinking] is probably responsible for about a half a million assaults nationally,” Arria said. “There are very limited benefits to drinking in college. There is a perceived social benefit, but even that is overblown.” According to the collaborative’s report, 19 percent of underage and 22 percent of 21- to 24-year-old college students in Maryland meet the criteria for either alcohol abuse or dependence.

The collaborative, which received its funding from Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is creating a measurement system to help colleges assess the effectiveness of new strategies on the campuses and measure progress towards their goals of reducing high-risk drinking.

“College drinking is a problem, but it is inevitable,” Gregory said. “Most people do it to have fun, relieve stress and get out with friends.”

Lundh did not believe that programs of this nature would significantly affect the drinking habits of college students. “However, I believe these programs, like AlcoholEDU, are extremely important because they provide students with information to ensure they realize the dangers that are also associated with the use of this drug,” he said.

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