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Excessive Drinking Costs US Colleges Millions

Booze-related injuries can rack up half a million a year in ER visits per college.

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Binge drinking lands many students in the ER
each year. Thinkstock

By Valerie Tejeda

03/20/12

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Alcohol-induced injuries among college students can cost a university more than half a million a year, according to a new study. The University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study involving 954 college students who were considered “heavy drinkers.” In the 28 days prior to the study, male participants drank an average of 81.8 drinks, while female participants drank 58.7 drinks. The two-year study, published April issue of Health Affairs, found that 30% of males and 27% of females reported visiting an emergency department at least once with injuries ranging from broken bones to head injuries. The students who experienced alcohol-induced blackouts were 70% more likely to be treated at an emergency room than those who drank the same amount but did not blackout. The ER visits by those students cost from $469,000-$546,000 per university, and the priced varied depending on the location. "College alcohol abusers susceptible to blackouts put a heavy burden on the medical care system," say study authors Marlon Mundt and Larissa Zakletskaia. "Given limited campus resources, the study results support targeting efforts at preventing alcohol-related injury [among] students with a history of blackouts," they add. "In our cost estimate, close to a half-million dollars could be saved in emergency-department utilization costs on a large university campus each year if interventions targeting blackout sufferers were successful."

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