Alcohol consumption accounted for 1,715 deaths among traditional-age college students in 2001, according to a study  released Thursday by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
That represents an increase of about 6 percent (after being adjusted for the rise in the number of college-age people) from the 1,575 alcohol-related deaths three years earlier, in 1998, according to the study, which was published in the latest edition of the Annual Review of Public Health. 
The study also found a sharp rise in the proportion of students aged 18 to 24 who acknowledged driving drunk, to 31.4 percent in 2001 from 26.5 percent in 1998. That represents an increase in the number of students who drove drunk over that three-year period to 2.8 million, from 2.3 million.
The researchers drew their data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the Harvard College Alcohol Survey, as well as national coroner studies and census and college enrollment data for 18 to 24 year olds. The deaths exclude homicides and suicides.
"This paper underscores what we had learned from another recent study -- that excessive alcohol use by college-aged individuals in the U.S. is a significant source of harm," said Ting-Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.