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Smoking, Drinking, and Gambling Addictions in Iowa

posted on April 25, 2008 at 10:49 AM


Recent passage of the state’s smoking ban would seem to indicate social and legal acceptance of the consumption of tobacco is waning.

No doubt behavioral scientists will be watching closely to see what effect the smoking curb will have on other addictions. Studies suggest smoking and drinking dependencies are linked.

Given that casino floors have been exempted from the smoking ban, scientists practically have a legislated control group for research into the potential connection to gambling addictions.

While gambling seems to be an addiction more dependent on the proximity of the opportunity to wager, the potential of alcohol and tobacco abuse is nearly culturally embedded.

They’re used to relax, socialize, and celebrate - as such, for many hold positive associations. And although they’re legal, use of these substances can have serious negative consequences. More people are addicted to nicotine and alcohol than to any other drugs of abuse. Their excessive use can have staggering consequences for the individual and society at large. In purely economic terms, alcohol-related problems cost society approximately $185 billion per year according to a government report.

Drinking often begins in high school and peaks in college where the "alcohol culture" is steeped in social traditions. For some teens drinking appears to be proving ground worthy of flaunting for the camera and posting on internet sites.

Angela Reams, director of Student Services Relations, University of Iowa: “You hear a lot of people saying these are the college years, live it up, it's normal for students to drink, it's normal for them to behave this way”.

The Task Force on College Drinking reports alcohol consumption on campuses nationwide is linked to at least 1,700 student deaths and nearly 600,000 unintentional injuries annually.

Angela Reams, director of Student Services Relations, University of Iowa: “We're seeing students entering rehab or treatment or receiving violations at a much higher rate and a much higher blood alcohol content than we were just a few years ago and you can't just shut that off when you graduate. You can't walk across that stage, get that diploma, and automatically you're able to drink in a healthy manner if you've been drinking in a high risk manner all four of your college years”.

Growing concerns about student alcohol abuse led The University of Iowa to implement an on-line alcohol prevention program in 2006. AlcoholEdu is a national program that has proven successful on other campuses. The University of Iowa requires all freshmen to complete the majority of the program before they arrive on campus. The final sections are completed after students have been at school several months and have had time to apply what they’ve learned. AlcoholEdu includes confidential evaluation tools that provide the University with insights into student's beliefs and behaviors surrounding alcohol.

Angela Reams, director of Student Services Relations, University of Iowa: “What we're seeing is that we're actually increasing the amount of students who are coming in with high risk behaviors already in place, which leads to the assumption that we're starting to attract more students who are already high risk drinkers because of our party school reputation”.

Working to change the “alcohol culture” the University is offering health credit courses aimed at alcohol prevention, is seeking to schedule more classes and tests on Fridays, and is exploring alternative social opportunities.

Angela Reams, director of Student Services Relations, University of Iowa: The university is looking at holding late night classes such as ballroom dancing and having them go into the typical what are known as the bar hours. So later at night when students would be able to participate and not worry about having to feel left out or feel as though they have to be downtown because they believe that's where all the other students are located.

Using several evaluation tools the University believes their work to educate and change the culture on campus is having positive results.

Angela Reams, director of Student Services Relations, University of Iowa: “What we are seeing is a reduction in some of the negative consequences that students associate with drinking. We're increasing the number of the abstainers or non-drinkers that we have on our campus and we're also slowly decreasing the number of high risk drinkers”.

Tags: addiction alcohol gambling health health care Iowa smoking

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