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College Student Drinking and Ambulance Utilization

Carey, Kate B. PhD; McClurg, Andrew J. BA; Bolles, Jamie R. BS; Hubbell, Suzanne J. MBA; Will, Heather A. BS; Carey, Michael P. PhD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: November-December 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 6 - p 524–528
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181a5d279

Objective Alcohol misuse by college students places resource demands on colleges and universities, including the provision of medical services for intoxicated students. We harvested archival data to document the prevalence of alcohol-related ambulance utilization and to explore factors associated with ambulance use.

Methods We reviewed 2 years of university ambulance records and determined which trips were alcohol related and their demographic, descriptive, and medical correlates.

Results Alcohol use was associated with 17 and 16 percent of all university-based ambulance trips in 2005 and 2006, respectively. When alcohol was involved, patients were more likely to be younger than 21 years, less alert, and more likely to receive advanced life support. Alcohol-related ambulance trips were more likely to occur on weekends, to involve transport from a residence hall, and to a hospital.

Conclusion Alcohol misuse is associated with one out of every six campus-based ambulance runs, a hidden cost of student alcohol misuse.

This study provides the first published evidence of the prevalence and correlates of alcohol-related ambulance use on a university campus.

Kate B. Carey, PhD, earned a BS from St Lawrence University and a PhD in clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University. She studies the assessment and treatment of substance use disorders and the prevention of health risk behaviors and directs the Substance Use Risk Education (SURE) Project. Dr Carey has published more than 150 papers, and her research has been supported by NIH since 1990.

Andrew J. McClurg, BA, is Research Associate, SU Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. He earned his BA in Psychology from Ithaca College and is a master's candidate in Instructional, Design, Development, and Evaluation, Syracuse University. Andrew served as a Senior Research Assistant on the SURE Project.

Jamie R. Bolles, BS, graduated with a BS in Psychology from Syracuse University. For 2 years, she has worked as a Research Assistant and interventionist for the SURE Project, an NIAAA-funded series of studies that evaluates brief interventions for risky drinking with college students.

Suzanne J. Hubbell, MBA, is Associate Director of Syracuse University Health Services.

Heather A. Will, BS, is Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Supervisor for Syracuse University Ambulance and Medical Transport Service. She earned a BS in Health Science from SUNY Cortland and received her Paramedic Certification from SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, NY. She has been active in the EMS system for the past 18 years with volunteer fire departments, rural volunteer ambulance services, and paid ambulance services in an urban setting.

Michael P. Carey, PhD, earned his PhD in Clinical Health Psychology from Vanderbilt University and completed a clinical internship at Brown University. His research focuses on health behaviors, sexual health, and HIV prevention, and he has directed or participated in more than 20 funded grant projects. He has published more than 240 papers and chapters and two books.

Corresponding Author: Kate B. Carey, PhD, Center for Health and Behavior, 430 Huntington Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244 (

This work was supported in part by NIAAA grants K02 AA15574 and R01 AA12518 (Kate B. Carey). The authors thank Dr James Jacobs, Director of Health Services, for his support for this research.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.