With the super bowl and prom season almost here, it is important to bring up the topic of binge drinking. By definition, binge drinking is “the consumption of greater than 4 alcoholic drinks for women or 5 alcoholic drinks for men in less than a 2 hour period. The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent is considered above the legal limit for driving. In young people less than 21 years of age, any form of alcohol consumption is illegal so the BAC would reflect illegal drinking and drinking a considerable amount of alcohol within a small amount of time. Please remember that the usually smaller body of a teenager would require less alcohol to become inebriated.
Most adults who describe themselves as binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent. They estimate that binge drinkers may participate in binges 3-4 times per month as opposed to an alcoholic, who would drink much more frequently. The problem with people under 21 years of age is that 90 percent of alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking. The party scene is common for binge drinkers, which can occur on college campuses, clubs and house parties. In 2011, one in ten students aged 16 or older reported driving after drinking and it was usually binged. It is common knowledge that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in children aged 16-19 years of age. It is no surprise that the YRBS (2011) stated that one in five teens involved in a fatal car crash had a positive BAC level.
Movies and television have been associated with teen drinking. Seeing social icons drink helps set an acceptable social standard. A recent study in the February 2012 of BMJ reported that children aged 10-14 who reported high movie alcohol exposure were more than twice as likely to start drinking and more likely to binge drink than teens with low movie alcohol exposure. Similar studies report similar outcomes when the adolescents see tobacco products on parade by their admired on screen heroes. This gives credence to the fact that children learn by example.
Thomas Fried, the director of the CDC states “that Binge drinking is a serious and unrecognized problem in women and girls. This type of drinking is also associated with a wide range of health issues including violence, injury, liver disease, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.”
The good news is that various strategies can help reduce this behavior that can kill. Here are some of the following evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking and related problems:
•Increasing alcoholic beverage costs and excise taxes.
•Limiting the number of retail alcohol outlets that sell alcoholic beverages in a given area.
•Holding alcohol retailers responsible for the harms caused by their underage or intoxicated patrons (dram shop liability).
•Restricting access to alcohol by maintaining limits on the days and hours of alcohol retail sales.
•Consistent enforcement of laws against underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.
•Maintaining government controls on alcohol sales (avoiding privatization).
•Screening and counseling for alcohol misuse.
Being mindful of others when at social engagements can save lives. If people recognize that binge drinking is a serious problem than that is the first step in a positive direction. Stay well.