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OHIO sees high-risk drinking decrease

Ohio University saw a 3 percent reduction in high-risk, or binge, drinking, according to the University's biannual Alcohol and Other Drug Survey (AOD), released June 8.  This marks the second consecutive reduction in high-risk drinking rates.

"This wasn't a surprise," said Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi. "Ohio University has been working hard to reduce our high-risk drinking rate. Seeing that decline continue over the last four years was expected, and reinforces the efforts the entire community have been focused on are helping.  We can continue to improve this statistic, but I am pleased with the progress we are making."

Since 2007, there has been an 8 percent total reduction in the rate of high-risk drinking.

The survey was conducted in seventeen undergraduate classes with 1,101 respondents from a population of 16,644 Athens campus undergraduates. The survey contains a margin of error of approximately 2.7 percent.

Associate Director of OHIO’s Campus Involvement Center Terry Koons echoed Lombardi's sentiment and gave credit to long-term educational programs for the decline.

"This is part of our environmental strategy," he said. "We introduce the student to the facts and consequences during orientation, through the online course AlocoholEdu , our judiciary policies, ongoing peer to peer educational programs and evidence-based interventions."

Such programs aimed at raising awareness seem to be paying off. According to the survey, 98 percent of students were aware of the alcohol and other drug judiciary policies, and 85 percent were aware of the "Stop at the Buzz " student-led harm-reduction social marketing campaign.

"The success of 'Stop at the Buzz' is based on the students who run it," said Koons. "Our office helps manage it, but they discuss, develop and disseminate the campaign themselves."

The campaign is working, with 34 percent of students having five or fewer drinks per week and a 3 percent reduction in students' perceptions of their peers' high-risk drinking.

OHIO did see a slight increase, to 33 percent from 28.8 percent in 2009, in the number of students who have used marijuana.

"That increase in marijuana use was not unexpected based on what we have seen with referrals to judiciaries this year," said Lombardi.

As with binge drinking, Lombardi said the Division of Student Affairs is prepared to tackle this issue head on.

"We have recently funded a new position in our office that will focus on other drugs, including marijuana," said Lombardi. "When we saw the increase in judicial reports this year we also implemented several new educational campaigns that were well received.  Nationally, there is a strong pro-legalization movement for marijuana, so it will be a challenge but we are going to work toward a reduction in marijuana use as well."