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Binge drinking is very popular amongst teenagers, and college students. This article will define what binge drinking is, provide information on the dangers of binge drinking, binge drinking statistics, and treatment for teens who binge drink.
As with other drinkers, adolescents may have different drinking patterns. They may sample alcohol occasionally in a family setting; drink a little, but on a daily basis; or indulge in large amounts of alcohol on a particular day of the week. The Surgeon General has reported in 2007 that, on the whole, teens who use alcohol drink less often than adults, but more heavily. In short, as many as two-thirds of adolescents who drink may tend to binge drink, and those who do tend to drink more as they get older, exposing themselves to large amounts of alcohol at intervals over a number of years.
Binge Drinking Defined
Binge drinking is defined in several different ways and it is important to know that the standard definitions were created in reference to college students. One definition focuses on number and time, defining it as a minimum of five drinks on a single occasion. Another definition is slightly looser in time, and more specific in numbers, defining it as a minimum of five consecutive drinks for men and a minimum of four consecutive drinks for women. The most specific definition is from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) National Advisory Council in 2004:
“A ‘binge’ is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.”
To the extent that a teen has not reached his or her adult stature, one can infer that even less alcohol might be necessary to qualify as a binge.
The reference to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.07 gram percent or above is significant because current DUI/DWI laws in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia use this as the level to define when driving is a crime. For teens, a lower level of BAC, ranging from 0.00 g/dL to 0.02 g/dL is a crime.
Dangers of Binge Drinking
So, clearly an accident by an impaired driver is one of the dangers of binge drinking. In fact, binge drinkers seem to be largely responsible for driving under the influence, according to reports. Other injuries resulting from impaired judgment may also result, and loss of judgment may also result in sexually transmitted diseases and/or unplanned pregnancy.
Health effects that have been long known include liver disease, high blood pressure and other heart issues, and neurological damage leading to memory lapses, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. Another, health issue recognized more recently may be less well-known. In 2004, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI’s) of the brains of adolescents, J. Giedd showed that the development of the brain continues beyond the teens. This means that alcohol consumption by teenagers is affecting a brain that is still growing and changing, putting complete development at risk.
More people are aware of the dangers to development posed by alcohol when a developing fetus is exposed to it by a pregnant mother’s choice to consume alcohol. Fetal alcohol syndrome is another possible result of binge drinking.
And although most binge drinkers are not addicted (but note: this means that some are), the habits formed by drinking in youth, including binge drinking, make it more likely that they will continue to drink and be dependent on alcohol later in life. Other life-changing affects include a tendency to be overweight in adulthood and an increased chance of becoming a school drop-out. And, although they may escape with a simple hangover, perhaps the greatest immediate danger to the underage binge drinker is alcohol poisoning, which can lead to seizures, and even death. In the fall of 2004, five US college students at five different institutions, four of them underage, died after binge drinking.
Related Article: Drinking Games >>