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Another Look at Heavy Episodic Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorders among College and Noncollege Youth

Deborah A. Dawson, Bridget F. Grant, Frederick S. Stinson, Patricia S. Chou

Objective: To estimate rates of heavy episodic drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence among U.S. adults 18-29 years of age and determine the relationship of these rates to student status and residence. Method: The analysis is based on data from a subsample of U.S. adults 18-29 years of age (N = 8,666; 4,849 female) who were interviewed as part of the 2001-02 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N = 43,093). Data were collected in personal interviews from a representative sample of adults 18 and older, living in households and selected group quarters in the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and the District of Columbia. Results: Of all adults 18-29 years of age, 73.1% reported any drinking in the past year, 39.6% reported any heavy episodic drinking, 21.1% reported heavy drinking more than once a month and 11.0% reported heavy drinking more than once a week. Among past-year drinkers, these correspond to rates of 54.3% for any heavy episodic drinking, 28.9% for heavy drinking more than once a month and 15.0% for heavy drinking more than once a week. Although rates of heavy episodic drinking were slightly higher for college students than for noncollege students (p < .01), differences according to place of residence were greater than differences according to student status. Overall, 7.0% of adults ages 18-29 met the DSM-IV criteria for alcohol abuse in the past year, and 9.2% met the criteria for alcohol dependence. The prevalence of abuse was highest among students living off campus (p < .01), and rates of dependence were highest among students living on campus (p < .01). Conclusions: Heavy episodic drinking and alcohol use disorders are youth as well as college phenomena. Prevention campaigns targeted at all youth are needed to supplement interventions conducted at the campus level. (J. Stud. Alcohol 65: 477-488, 2004)