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From late 1990s to 2014, heavy episodic drinking, drunk driving declined, but alcohol-related nontraffic deaths, overdose hospitalizations increased among U.S. emerging adults A

new report provides updated data on the percentages of U.S. emerging adults aged 18 to 24 years who engaged in past-month heavy episodic (binge) drinking and past-year alcohol-impaired driving, as well as the magnitude of alcohol-related unintentional injury deaths and overdose hospitalizations, between 1998 and 2014. Longitudinal data were collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations’ Fatality Reporting System, CDC WISQARS, a meta-analysis of death certificate data, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The authors integrated these data sets and used statistical software to estimate the counts and proportions of 18- to 24-year-olds and college and noncollege respondents who experienced the events of interest. Results showed the proportion of emerging adults who engaged in past-month heavy episodic drinking (HED) increased from 31.7% in 1999 to 43.1% in 2005 (p = 0.03), then declined to 38.8% in 2014 (p > 0.05). Overall, individuals aged 21 to 24 years were more likely to engage in HED than those aged 18 to 20 years and college students aged 18 to 20 years were more likely to engage in HED than their noncollege peers. From 1999 to 2005, the proportion of emerging adults who drove after drinking increased significantly, but decreased proportionately by 37% (p < 0.01) from 2005 to 2014. A greater proportion of 21-to 24-year-olds than 18- to 20-year-olds engaged in this behavior (p < 0.05). Alcohol-related unintentional deaths were estimated to have increased slightly from 1998 to 2005, then decreased proportionately by 29% from 2005 to 2014. Alcohol-related unintentional traffic deaths proportionately declined 43% from 1998 to 2014. The estimated number of college students who died in these events decreased from 1,266 in 1998 to 967 in 2014.  Overall alcohol-related unintentional nontraffic deaths increased 21% from 1998 to 2014 and alcohol-related poisoning death rates increased 254% during the same period. An estimated 22,219 college students were hospitalized for an alcohol overdose in 2014. Alcohol-related overdose hospitalization rates rose by 26% between 1998 and 2014. Combined alcohol and opioid overdose hospitalization rates increased by 197% and combined alcohol and sedatives rates rose by 241% during this period.

Take away: Between 1999 and 2005, rates of reported heavy episodic drinking and driving under the influence increased, then decreased by 37% and 41%, respectively, between 2005 and 2014. Alcohol-related traffic deaths also decreased, but alcohol-related nontraffic deaths increased by 21% between 1998 and 2014. Alcohol poisoning deaths more than doubled during this period.

Citation: Hingson R, Zha W & Smyth D (2017). Magnitude and trends in heavy episodic drinking, alcohol-impaired driving, and alcohol-related mortality and overdose hospitalizations among emerging adults of college ages 18–24 in the United States, 1998–2014 [published online ahead of print 26 July 2017], Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs doi: 10.15288/jsad.2017.78.540

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