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Binge Drinking on the Rise in College

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) used self-reporting surveys to compare drinking behaviors between 1976 and today, finding that regular drinking habits seem largely unchanged over the past three decades, but binge drinking by coeds has seen a steep rise.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more consecutive drinks within two hours for a female and five or more for a male. The body of research shows that when drinking levels go up, so do the risks to the binge drinker, and often to those around them. A study from Harvard showed typical negative outcomes for college binge drinkers. Those who binged once or twice in a 14-day span faced double the risk of non-bingers for passing out, suffering personal injury, unplanned or unprotected sex, drunk driving, problem police encounters and poor school performance.

There are two major reports which gauge drinking across the country on an annual basis. The first is the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This report is based on over 67,000 personal interviews with youth aged 12 and older. The second report comes from the Monitoring the Future study which asks 50,000 students in grades 8,10 and 12 to self-report on drinking and drug use. This study conducts a follow-up with 2,400 of the 12th graders after graduation, which gives something of a peek into college freshman drinking behaviors.

The NIAAA update is based on self-reporting, but some key information cannot be gleaned this way, including drink sizes and the impact of drinking on memory. But the bottom line is two out of five college youth engage in binge drinking, a troublingly high percentage. The good news is that the Monitoring the Future studies have been showing a decline in binge drinking among 12th grade students, boys especially. It seems reasonable to hope that high school drinking declines might transfer into college declines in binge behaviors.

Excessive drinking negatively impacts the individual as study after study has shown. But the practice also hurts everyone within that person’s orbit including their family, friends and fellow students.

Posted on April 8th, 2014
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

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