Alcohol and Other Drug Availability

A large determinant of alcohol and other drug abuse among students is the extent to which these substances are available to them. Many students need to look no further than the off-campus bar as a cheap, easily accessible source of alcohol, or their fellow students as providers of illegal drugs.

Students can find alcohol on campus at parties, tailgates, and dorm rooms, and off campus at house parties, bars, liquor stores, and restaurants. Many times, students who are under 21 are not asked for ID and are able to purchase and consume alcohol freely. Happy hours and keg parties not only provide large quantities of alcohol to students but also offer it to them at a very low cost.

Friends and family members, nightclubs and bars, and even online pharmacies are all places where many students find it easy to obtain illicit and prescription drugs.

Limiting Alcohol and Other Drug Availability on Campus

Campus administrators can reduce the extent to which alcohol is available to students on campus by establishing stringent guidelines about alcohol consumption and distribution, and enforcing those guidelines consistently. While some campuses ban alcohol altogether on campus, establishing policies that restrict its use and availability can also be effective in reducing student alcohol consumption. Creating policies that restrict large quantities of alcohol, limiting where and when drinking can occur, and requiring responsible alcohol service are some of the policies that have been successful.

Prohibiting keg delivery, establishing substance-free residence halls, requiring social events such as tailgates and fraternity and sorority functions to be alcohol-free, and mandating responsible beverage service (RBS) training for servers are all concrete ways to limit alcohol availability on campus. These steps also help establish a healthy norm that does not promote or support heavy drinking.

Likewise, administrators can work to limit access to other drugs on campus. Campus guidelines can clearly spell out that illicit drug use and distribution will not be tolerated. Campus health officials can closely monitor students who are prescribed commonly-abused prescription drugs, including painkillers, depressants, and stimulants, and limit prescriptions to one-month supplies. They can refuse students who ask for frequent early refills and track those students who suddenly manifest symptoms of a disorder requiring treatment by one of these drugs. Finally, campus IT networks can block access to online pharmacy retailers from campus computers. It is important not to stigmatize prescription drugs when working to restrict access, however, as some students have valid medical reasons for needing these medications.

As with any policies, clear communication and enforcement of policies that limit alcohol and other drug availability are integral to their success.

Limiting Alcohol and Other Drug Availability off Campus

Even when access is limited on campus, alcohol is often easily accessible to students once they leave campus. Low-priced drink specials, servers who fail to check IDs, and off-campus keg parties can all promote excessive alcohol consumption.

Many administrators fear that limiting students' access to alcohol on campus will simply push them to drink off campus. However, campus administrators can work together with community leaders to reduce access to alcohol off campus. Requiring RBS training for alcohol servers at local bars and restaurants, prohibiting low-priced drink specials, requiring keg registration, and confining drinking to licensed premises are all policies that campus and community leaders can support to curb student alcohol abuse in off-campus settings. Further, research shows that the heavier the concentration of alcohol outlets near a campus, the higher the incidence of underage and heavy drinking and their consequences. Therefore, working to limit the density of alcohol outlets near a campus can serve to reduce alcohol-related problems in the community.

At the state level, campus and community coalitions can advocate for increased alcohol taxes and prices, decreased hours and days of alcohol sales, and increased enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws to promote more responsible alcohol use statewide.

To address the availability of other drugs off campus, coalitions can work with local law enforcement to identify where students are obtaining illicit drugs so that police can arrest and prosecute local drug dealers, close down clubs and bars that allow drug use, and take action against local landlords owning property where drugs are sold.

Examples of Specific Activities

  • Ban or restrict use of alcohol on campus.
  • Prohibit kegs and other large containers on campus.
  • Require RBS training for on- and off-campus servers.
  • Establish substance-free residences.
  • Monitor students' prescription drug use.
  • Block online pharmacy access from campus computers.
  • Prohibit low-priced drink specials.
  • Prohibit alcohol use in public places.
  • Limit number and concentration of alcohol outlets near campus.
  • Increase costs of alcohol sales licenses.
  • Require keg registration.
  • Increase state alcohol taxes.
  • Limit days or hours of alcohol sales.
  • Work with local police to remove sources of other drugs in the community.
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