Survey Sees Increase in Students’ Drinking, Marijuana Use

GABBY HARTZE | THE SPECTRUM  Students who reported driving a car while intoxicated decreased from 48.8 percent in 2001 to 17.7 percent in 2014.
Students who reported driving a car while intoxicated decreased from 48.8 percent in 2001 to 17.7 percent in 2014.

In a state known nationally for its heavy drinking, the results of North Dakota State’s 2014 NDCORE Alcohol and Drug Survey aren’t too surprising to university officials reviewing the numbers.

The new numbers, though, show some differences.

Since 2001, students using alcohol in the past 30 days have decreased from 81.2 percent to 74.2 percent. Reported underage drinking decreased from 78.6 percent to 67.4 percent in the same timeframe, but the number of drinks consumed weekly increased from 5.37 drinks 14 years ago to 5.71 drinks in 2014.

North Dakota’s average weekly consumption was 4.36 drinks in 2014. The 2012 national average was 4.1 drinks a week.

“It’s an environmental issue,” said Erika Beseler Thompson, student success programs associate director. “We currently live in a state known for drinking.”

Fargo in particular is renowned for its residents identifying as heavy drinkers.

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey found 38 million Americans drink in excess. reported that Fargo ranked at the top of “drunkest” cities in the US, with 28 percent of residents identifying as heavy drinkers.

“College students don’t live in a bubble,” Thompson said, adding student behaviors are a reflection of the region’s culture.

“This campus is not separate from a broader community,” she said.

“We do see some that again reflected in student behaviors at NDSU, surrounding drinking behaviors,” Nick Redenius, the alcohol and other drug prevention coordinator said of North Dakota’s alcohol use culture.

A small percentage of NDSU classes responded to the survey.

Demographics included 28.8 percent of freshmen, 20.7 percent of sophomores, 29.5 percent of juniors, 18.4 percent of seniors and 2.1 percent of graduate and other students.

Thompson and Redenius said students’ use of alcohol and other drugs can often go deeper.

Redenius said about 700 undergraduate students identify as recovering from alcohol. That number comprises about 8 percent of the NDSU student body, Thompson said.

The Bison Recovery Community, a grant-funded program, is offered as a safe haven by NDSU Counseling, Redenius said, as well as “safe, alcohol-free space” in the events the program holds for its members.

The survey also found an increase in marijuana use of the past 30 days, rising from 8.4 to 14.5 percent from 2012 to 2014.

Despite the increase in alcohol and marijuana use, the survey found decreases in alcohol consumption at private parties, as well as a decrease of students taken advantage of sexually while intoxicated, from 5 percent in 2001 to 1.7 percent in 2014.

Thompson said one impressive decrease was seen in the numbers of students who reported driving a car while under the influence, decreasing from 48.8 percent in 2001 to 17.7 percent in 2014.

Conversely one increase the survey found was underage students obtaining alcohol from consenting parents, from 11.3 percent in 2001 to 35.5 percent last year.

“That was the surprising thing,” Redenius said. “Over a third of students reported that. That’s a lot of parents.”

With the results of this survey, Redenius said his office will look for opportunities to reach out to students for prevention and involvement efforts.

Overall the survey results “didn’t surprise” Redenius and Thompson, he said.

“I don’t think there were any real shockers here,” he said.

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