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Teen Health: Alcohol Use: Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking

by: Amy Otis, RN

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as "the consumption of five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion." In national surveys (in the United States) about a third of high school seniors and 45 percent of college students reported at least one occasion of binge drinking within the previous 2 weeks.

In March of 2004, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that, “More than five million high schoolers binge drink at least once a month. As a Floridian who lives near one of the 'Spring Break' hot spots, this comes as no great shock. I guess there are a lot of parents out there who are surprised by these numbers and yet, what were they doing in college or when the drinking age was 18? How do you expect your kid to “just say no”, when you said yes not that long ago? Talk to your teenagers and be honest with them.

While some national surveys have documented a significant decline in the use of other drugs by high school seniors and college-age youths, there have been only small declines in the numbers reporting binge drinking. Teenagers and young adults drink alcoholic beverages at about the same rates they did 5 years ago. Binge drinking increases the risk for alcohol-related injury, especially for young people, who often combine alcohol with other high risk activities, such as impaired driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the four leading injury-related causes of death among youths under the age of 20 are motor vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides, and drowning. Alcohol is involved in many of these deaths.

Sexual encounters with their risks of pregnancy, STDs, and HIV exposure, as well as date rape and other violence, can and do occur more frequently while students are consuming large amounts of alcohol by binge drinking.

Binge drinking, or the partying lifestyle of young people may be related to an environment that appears to support heavy drinking. Teenagers report that alcohol is more easily available to them today than it was 5 years ago, and there is a high correlation between availability and use. In addition, alcoholic beverages remain inexpensive in comparison with other beverages, especially beer when purchased in kegs, often the center of a college party or even a teenage party.

A factor that may add to the college setting as a high-risk environment for binge drinking is that youths on college campuses are targets of heavy marketing of alcoholic beverages. Beer companies are especially active in promoting to college students. Student newspapers and campus bulletin boards boast ads for happy hours with price reductions and other incentives that promote heavy drinking. Representatives of the alcohol industry, including producers, wholesalers, and retailers, sponsor campus social, sporting, and cultural events, even on campuses where the majority of participants are under the age of 21. If you are age 21 and over -- drink responsibly, but you already know that.

Prevention Strategies

Prevention strategies in response to binge drinking by young people include actions to reduce alcohol availability, such as increases in price, and responsible beverage service practices, especially at parties. Some communities require keg tagging, which requires kegs to be labeled with a serial number identifying the purchaser in case the keg is discovered at an underage drinking party. Other strategies include restrictions on marketing and promotion practices that glamorize heavy drinking, especially those directed at young people.

If you were told the party you are going to WILL have a keg (or a couple of them), or that there will be a bartender there and mixed drinks and you are under the legal drinking age, you might want to consider going somewhere else that night. Think about the risks before you go. If you are of age, please designate a driver to drive that night. That person should NOT drink at all. It just might save a life. Thanks!

“Dumb Reasons to Drink”

Check out the Blood Alcohol Calculator and see if you’re as sober when you think.

Hangover Help

Visit Coolnurse.com info for teens and parents of teens.


CoolNurse.com

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