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Help Prevent Alcohol Abuse in Higher Education

Melanie Bennett, Esq., ARM-E
April 2022
Help counter student alcohol abuse by establishing policies and implementing training.

Alcohol abuse increases the risk of severe injuries — including death — on and around college campuses. It also frequently contributes to claims being filed against institutions, according to a review of United Educators’ (UE’s) claims studies. In a national study, over one-third of college students reported binge drinking in the past month. Alcohol contributes to about 1,500 college student deaths each year.

Although alcohol-related injuries can arise at any time, incidents of alcohol abuse are particularly common at certain times of year, such as the first six weeks of school, homecoming, spring break, and commencement. Your college or university should take these actions to help manage the risk alcohol poses.

Establish, Communicate, and Follow Your Alcohol Policies

Have clear policies on alcohol use by students and student organizations that include:

  • Prohibiting drinking by minors
  • Consequences for noncompliance
  • Prohibiting or restricting using institution funds to purchase alcohol for student functions
  • Event rules
  • Procedures for requesting events serving alcohol
  • Amnesty policies that allow students to seek medical help in alcohol-related emergencies without incurring disciplinary consequences

Periodically review campus alcohol practices to ensure your policies are being followed. Where policies aren’t followed, either modify the policy so it fits campus practices or modify your practices so they support and enforce your alcohol policies.

Provide Alcohol Education

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol reduction likely comes from a combination of individual and campus-wide education strategies. Incoming first-year students are particularly susceptible to alcohol abuse without alcohol education. Use interactive training to teach students about alcohol, responsible drinking, and the risks associated with overconsumption.

  • Teach students that alcohol decreases caution and increases risk-taking behaviors. Drinking alcohol impairs physical and mental inhibitions. Alcohol increases the risk of accidents, injury, unwanted attention, and theft.
  • Educate students about the impact alcohol has on sexual consent. All student education and training on consent should address the impact of alcohol on individuals’ ability to give consent.
  • Provide personalized information about alcohol use by peers. Students overestimate how much other students drink and increase their alcohol consumption to meet these perceived trends. Include data on actual alcohol consumption and note discrepancies between perception and reality.
  • Develop individual-level education programs. Address activity-specific risks for students who participate in campus athletics or Greek life, because they’re at a higher risk for alcohol abuse. To help set goals for limiting use, provide support programs for students identified as having alcohol misuse problems.
  • Consider training parents of incoming students to prevent alcohol abuse. Studies suggest parental intervention before college may reduce high-risk drinking among students.
  • Launch special campaigns during times of the year when incidents of alcohol abuse are most common. Implementing alcohol education campaigns around these events can help prevent abuse and misuse.

Increase the Cost of Alcohol

Alcohol discounts can encourage overconsumption. Work with local and state governments to create laws and regulations limiting alcohol discounts. For example:

  • Restrict promotions such as happy hours or the sale of two beverages for the price of one.
  • Establish minimum unit pricing for alcohol sold in alcohol establishments.
  • Increase the alcohol sales tax.


More From UE
Alcohol and Drug Awareness Course Collection for Higher Education
Confronting Campus Sexual Assault: An Examination of Higher Education Claims
Additional Resources
NIAAA: College Drinking — Changing the Culture
Boston University Policies on Alcohol
Carnegie Mellon University Alcohol Policy

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