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Trying to convince college students not to drink by emphasizing the downside of excessive drinking is ineffective, say researchers who recently presented their findings at the American Psychological Association Annual Meeting.

When researchers used Breathalyzers to show college students their blood alcohol content, it had the opposite of the intended effect, encouraging them to drink more, said E. Scott Geller, Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech. “We thought if we could demonstrate to students that their performance deteriorated under alcohol, they would be convinced that their alcohol consumption has put them at risk,” Geller told USA Today. “Knowing that one is impaired, physically and even emotionally, did not seem to reduce alcohol consumption.”

According to Laina Bay-Cheng of the University at Buffalo-State University of New York, who also presented a study at the meeting, students told her that alcohol is appealing because they see it as “liquid courage.” Drinking gives students an excuse to do things they normally wouldn’t, she says.

Close to 40 percent of college students in the United States engage in binge drinking and that number has remained virtually unchanged for decades. Almost 2,000 college students in the U.S. die each year from alcohol-related injuries. An estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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