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College Students and Substance Abuse

Survey Suggests College Students have a High Risk of Substance Abuse

By Bjarki Sigursveinsson (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Bjarki Sigursveinsson via Wikimedia Commons
A recent survey suggests that college students are less likely than those not attending college to be warned by healthcare professionals of the risks and dangers of abusing drugs or alcohol. This survey is extremely troubling because current college enrollees are “binge drinking” or drinking to an extreme in a short period of time. The results of the survey raise the question- why are these young students in college not being warned about the dangers of alcohol or drug abuse?

Dr. Ralph Hingson, a coauthor of the research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics, admits that the survey results are surprising and states that there is compelling evidence that brief screening and intervention in the doctor’s office reduces alcohol problems for young people. Dr. Hingson, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, goes on to say, “(But) they don’t always happen because providers, physicians, nurses and social workers don’t routinely ask every young person about their drinking, drug use or smoking.”

The statistical evidence provided by the survey is shocking. As the article states, 2,000 students in public, private, or parochial high schools were resurveyed every year starting the participant’s sophomore year in high school through their entry into college (or life after high school.) The questions repeatedly asked on the survey were whether the participant had seen a doctor during the previous year and if the participant had been warned about the dangers of alcohol or drug abuse.

Seventy percent of those participants in a two or four year college said they had been asked about drinking, but less than half (between 30-35 percent) of the participants in a two or four year college had been advised about the risks and dangers of drinking or using or substances. Slightly more of those not enrolled (50-57 percent) had been advised of the risks and dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

The article suggests the rational behind these young participants not being advised of the dangers and risk of alcohol consumption could be because of time constraints, lack of knowledge or training, and lack of patient insurance for treatment as stated by Lori A. J. Scott-Sheldon of Brown University. Tragically, as the article points out, alcohol is a leading contributor to death of college age people.

In this author’s opinion, the survey results are troubling. College students should be advised about the dangers of drinking and using drugs. While in college (or even in the workforce) making wise decisions about one’s body and health can prevent a lifetime of regret, criminal convictions and health issues. With “binge drinking” running rampant around college campuses, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests on the rise, and deaths resulting from alcohol related incidents continuing to destroy families, it is time for these young individuals to be informed and counseled on the dangers of alcohol consumption and drug use. One arrest for DUI or life lost due to a lack of education on alcohol consumption is unacceptable. The lawyers of Oberman & Rice will continue to educate and lecture on the dangers of alcohol consumption and hope that our colleagues and friends across the country do the same.


The author would like to thank his associate attorney, Arrin “A.Z.” Zadeh, for his research and contributions to this article.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 7th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having lectured at legal seminars in 29 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.

You may contact Steve through his website at or by telephone at (865) 249-7200.


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Steve Oberman

Steve Oberman

Since graduating from the University of Tennessee Law School in 1980, Mr. Oberman has become established as a national authority on the intricacies of DUI defense law. Steve is a former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, co-author of a national treatise ("Drunk Driving Defense" published by Aspen/Wolters-Kluwer), and author of "DUI: The Crime and Consequences in Tennessee" (published by Thomson-Reuters/West). He has taught thousands of lawyers, judges, and members of the general public about the intricacies of this crime. Steve was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach American Criminal Law and American Trial Advocacy at the University of Latvia School of Law in 2019; in 2023 taught for a semester as a visiting professor at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary; and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 2024. Steve has also presented at a number of judicial conferences in the United States and Canada as well as for law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Czech Republic Police Academy. As a Tennessee DUI attorney, Mr. Oberman has successfully defended over two thousand clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In 2006, Mr. Oberman became the first DUI lawyer in Tennessee to be recognized by the National College for DUI Defense as a Board Certified Specialist in the area of DUI Defense law.

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