Blackouts from College Binge Drinking Lead to Costly Emergency Room Visits

Blackouts that result from binge drinking among college students cost the average large university about a half million dollars per year, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin note in Health Affairs that 50 percent of college students who drink report alcohol-induced blackouts. They studied emergency department visits among college students at five universities over two years, and found about one in eight were associated with blackout drinking. Blackout-related injuries ranged from broken bones to head and brain injuries that required CT scans. They estimated that on a large university campus with more than 40,000 students, blackout-associated emergency department visit costs would range from $469,000 to $546,000 per year, MSNBC reports.

“We conclude that blackouts are a strong predictor of emergency department visits for college drinkers and that prevention efforts aimed at students with a history of blackouts might reduce injuries and emergency department costs,” the researchers wrote.

A study published last year suggested that the more alcohol-related memory blackouts a college student has, the greater the risk he or she has of future accidental injuries related to drinking. The study of 796 undergraduate and 158 graduate students at four U.S. universities and one Canadian university found that over a two-year period, hazardous drinking was widespread. More than half of the students had at least one memory blackout in the year before the study began, while 7 percent said they had at least six blackouts.

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