MEMPHIS — Binge drinking is significantly more common among college students with disabilities than it is among their peers, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Memphis, led by esteemed Professor Steven L. West, surveyed 1,285 students with disabilities across the U.S. about their habits with alcohol and other substances.

Bartender pouring a beer
A new study finds that disabled college students partake in binge drinking significantly more frequently than their peers.

Eighty percent of respondents indicated that they had consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime, while 56 percent reported having participated in binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks in a single sitting for males, or four or more drinks for females — within the preceding year.

The incidence of binge drinking among disabled students was found to occur at a rate about 30 percent higher than it did with the average college student.

Of the respondents who binge drank at least once in the year examined — the survey was administered in 2012 — 10 percent reported binge drinking at least monthly, nine percent reported binge drinking twice or three times a week, and one percent reported binge drinking more than five times a week.

While a plurality of these students drank less than once a month, 10 percent reported drinking daily, which the researchers saw to be concerning.

“Substance abuse is the topic of high public interest, yet little attention is given to the experiences of college students with disabilities,” wrote West et al.

“Given that binge drinking is highly correlated with academic failure, drop-out, and an increased risk for various negative health conditions, such use by students with disabilities may place them at extreme risk for various negative outcomes,” they explained.

The researchers argue that fraternity members, athletes, and others are often targeted when it comes to excessive levels of drinking, at the expense of students with disabilities.

“Our finding that students with disabilities drink and binge drink at considerable rates calls for more preventive efforts targeting this underserved population,” they argue.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Public Health Reports.

About Daniel Steingold

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