After missing goals set in 2009, NDSU takes new aim at substance abuse
FARGO — North Dakota State University set out in 2009 to curb substance abuse by students, adding more education about drugs and alcohol and more sober events to offer alternatives.
One of the plan’s stated goals was to lower high-risk drinking rates — the portion of students who consumed five or more drinks in a sitting within the last two weeks — from 51 percent in 2008 to 48.5 percent in 2012.
Instead, the percentage of high-risk drinkers climbed to 52.9 percent by 2012.
So on Thursday, school officials unveiled a more intensive plan, which would strengthen sober weekend programming and identify students who need treatment.
While sober programming is covered by the student union on Friday nights, the group behind the plan wants to secure permanent funding for Saturday night events.
“We know that it’s important to have fun things for our students to do if we’re going to ask them to make low-risk choices,” said Laura Oster-Aaland, co-chair of the President’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
Last year, 13,000 students attended late-night events.
The group will also explore ways to intervene with high-risk students — such as those who completed a treatment program in high school or are in need of treatment during college — and train student group advisers to address alcohol and other drug use with group members.
A survey of prospective employers to identify and publicize their alcohol and drug policies will also continue so students understand how their behavior can affect future careers.
In addition to the rate of high-risk drinking, average drinks per week and use of alcohol and marijuana were up from 2008 to 2012. The 2012 goals the council set for all of those measurements were missed.
“You have to understand that this is a marathon and not a sprint,” said Athletic Director Gene Taylor, who also co-chairs the council. “These efforts are going to take some time.”
Not all of the statistics were headed in the wrong direction. Fewer students reported a negative consequence, like skipping class or poor performance due to their use of alcohol and other drugs. In 2012, 28.4 percent reported missing class, and 21.1 percent said use had caused a poor performance on a test or a project – both of which were lower than the goals set in 2009.
The plan announced Thursday sets new goals to reach by 2018:
— Reduce the percentage of high-risk drinking among students from 52.9 percent to 50.3 percent.
— Reduce the percentage of students who consumed alcohol in the past 30 days from 74.9 percent to 71.2 percent and reduce rates for underage student drinking from 64.6 percent to 61.4 percent.
— Reduce the percentage of students who used marijuana in the past 30 days from 9.5 percent to 9 percent.
— Reduce the majority of the 19 negative consequences of alcohol and other drug use reported by NDSU students.
“We are working against a culture of high-risk consumption,” Oster-Aaland said. “However, there are signs of change.”
She pointed to less advertising for alcohol in the campus newspaper, increased attendance at sober late-night events and more abstaining students coming out of high schools.