University of Iowa reports drop in problem drinking

Rocklin highlights 10% decrease in "negative consequences"

IOWA CITY – With an election over Iowa City’s bar-entry age looming, University of Iowa officials on Wednesday revealed data that indicate problem drinking is decreasing among students.

Results from surveys taken by 930 UI students showed the prevalence, frequency and intensity of high-risk drinking has decreased since 2009.

“That really goes to everybody,” said Kelly Bender, the UI’s coordinator for campus-community harm reduction initiatives. “That doesn’t happen without a comprehensive effort” by the community and the university.

The data was shared at a meeting of the Partnership for Alcohol Safety. The group is made up of representatives from the University of Iowa, city of Iowa City, students and downtown businesses.

The group first met in 2009 to discuss ways to reduce problem drinking. The following year, the city of Iowa City enacted, and voters approved, a law that bans people younger than 21 from Iowa City bars after 10 p.m., with some exceptions.

Three years later, that issue is back. A petition seeking to repeal the 21-only law was approved by the city last month, leaving it up to the City Council to either adopt the proposed action or put it up for a public vote.

The City Council plans to discuss the petition at its July 23 meeting, but members have already said they will not rescind the law. That means a November election is likely.

Partnership for Alcohol Safety members touched on 21-only briefly at the end of the meeting, saying they want to discuss their role in the pending election at their next meeting in September.

“I think it’s the biggest issue we’ll be talking about,” Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said.

The survey of UI students, taken following spring break last semester, found that the number of students who used alcohol in the previous 30 days had gone from 85.2 percent in 2009 to 75 percent this year.

The prevalence of high-risk drinking in that period decreased 17 percent, to 58.7 percent. High-risk drinking is defined as having five-plus drinks in one sitting in the previous two weeks.

Frequency was down 21 percent and intensity of drinking dropped 20 percent since 2009.

Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for student life, highlighted the 10 percent decrease in “negative consequences” caused by drinking alcohol reported by survey participants.

“That really is the key,” he said.

The survey was part of the National College Health Assessment, which is taken by more than 90,000 students at more than 140 schools, according to the UI. National data was not yet available to which to compare the UI’s results.

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