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Frequently Asked Questions
Although consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time is a common problem for college students, binge drinking can occur at any age.
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What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as having 4 (for women) to 5 (for males) or more drinks within a 2-hour period. Binge drinking is a widespread and common problem in the United States and across the world, characterized by an excess of alcohol consumption. Annually, over 38 million Americans struggle with binge drinking, leading to 95,000 binge-drinking-related deaths in the United States alone.
This type of drinking behavior can bring the blood alcohol level dangerously high, 0.08 (the legal limit in most of the United States) or above. At this level, an individual’s judgement becomes clouded which contributes to bad decision making and high risk behavior such as drinking and driving. Binge drinking is not the same as alcoholism or alcohol dependency; however, it does create problems and has many risks involved.
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College And Binge Drinking
Although binge drinking is far from limited to just college students, the two are very closely associated. Up to 53% of college students consume alcohol regularly. 33% of full time college students admitted to binge drinking.
Some college students find solace in binge drinking, as they struggle to deal with stressors of daily college life and peer pressure. An additional reason for the over consumption of alcohol among college students is the carefree and party lifestyle many college students partake in, with little regard for health consequences. The many long-term health risks, however, outweigh the short-term excitement. Over drinking in college can lead to a lifetime of problems, as the younger a drinker is, the more likely they are to transition into alcoholism later on.
This type of drinking behavior creates risks for the entire student body. On college campuses, many women report men behaving in a sexually aggressive manner when under the influence of alcohol. 67% of male aggressors were drinking at a time of sexual assault or other forms of victimization. Students who binge drink are more likely to behave in aggressive ways, damage property on college campuses, and miss classes.
The Dangers Of Binge Drinking
Here are some of the short and long-term consequences of binge drinkers:
- Drinking and driving
- Transition into alcoholism
- Impulsive behavior
- Violent behavior
- Sexually aggressive behavior
- Higher risk of being a victim of many crimes
- Brain chemistry alteration
- Liver damage
- Mood swings
- Depression and anxiety
- Impaired judgment and decision-making skills
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Higher risk of breast cancer in women
- Alcohol poisoning and death
Who Is Most At Risk For Binge Drinking
It used to true that men were more likely to binge drink than women. But the gender gap in alcohol consumption and binge drinking has been rapidly closing over the last 10 years. College aged females are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of binge drinking. Among college students, rates are highest among individuals of Caucasian descent, followed by Native Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans. Students involved in sorority and fraternity groups report higher percentages of binge drinking. Outside of college campuses, people found in lower socio-economic statuses are more likely to participate in this kind of over drinking.
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Binge Drinking Prevention
Many college campuses provide alcohol awareness and treatment programs to help students with unhealthy drinking habits. Additionally, there are sponsored alcohol awareness programs to spread awareness of binge drinking. Many programs offer students useful behavioral skills needed to monitor drinking consumption. Students involved in these programs typically binge drink at lower rates than other students. Many colleges also offer alcohol-free parties and alcohol counseling services for students.
Parents of college students can help to prevent binge drinking by:
- Talking with their children about the dangers of harmful and underage college drinking.
- Reaching out periodically and keeping the lines of communication open while their child is at college.
- Reminding their child that they are free to share their lives with them and ask for help if needed.
- Speaking to their child about the signs and what to do in the case of an alcohol overdose and other alcohol-related problems.
On a personal level, admitting you have a problem is central to finding a resolution, as denial is often a root cause for some binge drinkers. Self-control is key in ensuring drinks are enjoyed in a responsible manner. Self-care protocols, such as eating properly and drinking on a full stomach, will help those who drink alcohol from getting dangerously intoxicated. It can also be helpful for college students be able to identify an alcohol-related problem and understand how to help.
How To Identify Alcohol Overdose
An alcohol overdose occurs when there is too much alcohol in a person’s bloodstream which causes areas in the brain to shut down. These areas control the basic functions that keep people alive such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control. Signs of an alcohol overdose include:
- Difficulty staying conscious
- Inability to wake up
- Breathing that has slowed to few than 8 breaths per minutes
- Breathing that has become irregular with more than 10 seconds between breaths
- Slow heart rate
- Clammy skin
- Dulled responses, like no gag reflex
- Extremely low body temperature
- Bluish or pale skin
This alcohol-related problem can lead to lead to permanent brain damage or death. If any 3 of these signs are present, it is imperative that one get immediate medical attention. Because of underage drinking, some college students may be hesitant to call 911 in these situations. Getting help and saving the life someone who is overdosing from alcohol should be the top priority.
There are many tools that help reduce binge drinkers’ consumption, including counseling, therapy, and spiritual treatments. Thousands of rehabilitation centers across the country assist with recovery. Inpatient and outpatient centers are available to prevent binge drinkers from transitioning into full alcoholism before it is too late. Patients can discover the root cause of their unhealthy drinking habits, especially if there are other underlying concerns, such as co-occurring mental disorders. Detox programs are also offered as treatment and can take up to a week to complete. If you are impacted by binge drinking, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider for more information.
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National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (2021). Alcohol Facts And Statistic. Retrieved on August 23, 2021 at https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics