Oakland University
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

OU students fare well in national alcohol and drug use survey

By Dave Groves, staff writer

More than 2,600 Oakland University undergraduates participated in a national alcohol and drug use survey last spring. Most of the results offer reassurance, but findings also signal a need to raise awareness efforts on specific alcohol and drug use issues.

The Core Drug and Alcohol Survey, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted every five years, is used to measure students’ usage, attitudes, perceptions and opinions. A 20 percent response rate OU saw this year was the highest recorded since the university began conducting the survey in 1994.

Dr. David Schwartz, interim director of Oakland University Counseling Center, said that among the more encouraging news the study revealed is that OU students appear to use alcohol and drugs far less frequently than their counterparts across the county. Findings included:

One area of findings that concerned Dr. Schwartz, though it is not a new phenomenon, is that students perceive their peers using alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs far more frequently than is actually the case.

In fact, 90.3 percent of Oakland students said they believe that on average, their peers drink once a week or more. Only 37.1 percent said they actually do so. Similarly, 73 percent of OU students said they thought that on average, their peers use marijuana once a month or more, while less than 10 percent indicated they do.

Dr. Schwartz believes it’s important that students understand the reality, because misperceptions can make them more vulnerable to peer pressure.

“It’s definitely an issue, especially for freshmen. Many will come here, hear about a party and feel they need to drink to fit in,” he said. “If we can get in there early and show them the truth about it, we might be able to begin changing perceptions that can lead to risky behavior.”

While binge drinking among OU students occurs far less frequently than the national average, the rate has risen over the years. Dr. Schwartz said this year’s results showed an increase of just half a percentage point, but stressed that the movement is in the wrong direction.

Another area of concern was that a small group of students surveyed – 1.8 percent – reported being involved in at least one incident of physical violence over the past year. More than a third of time, alcohol or drug use was involved. Similarly, 1.2 percent reported experiencing unwanted sexual intercourse. In these cases, alcohol or drug use was involved 87.5 percent of the time.

While Dr. Schwartz steers away from scare tactics to dissuade alcohol and drug use, he said it is important that students understand that the impaired judgment of intoxication or a drug-related high can lead to poor decisions that have serious consequences.

In light of this year’s Core Survey findings, the university will continue hosting alcohol and drug use awareness classes, workshops and outreach events, but these efforts are likely to incorporate a stronger focus on areas of concern raised by the study.

“Overall, it’s encouraging that Oakland students engage in these risky behaviors significantly less than we see at other colleges and universities,” Dr. Schwartz said. “At the same time, we know we have an opportunity to raise awareness and help our students lead even healthier and safer lifestyles.”

The results of a national alcohol and drug use survey show reassuring findings from the more than 2,600 OU undergraduates that participated.

Created by Katherine Land - Deleted (land@oakland.edu) on Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Modified by Katherine Land - Deleted (land@oakland.edu) on Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Article Start Date: Wednesday, September 22, 2010