At this time each year high school juniors are starting to look at colleges and high school seniors are starting the brutal post-application waiting period. At this point many parents have started having talks with their kids about exercising personal responsibility in college when it comes to studying, drinking, driving and sex. One important talk is about the dangers of ‘binge drinking’, which is consuming quantities of alcohol more rapidly than normal with the express purpose of inebriation. It is defined as drinking “as four or more drinks for women, but five or more drinks for men within a three-hour period, according to the CDC.”
When you think about the stereotypical college party, typically it is dominated by falling-down-drunk boys slobbering over girls who are a bit more sober. It is the traditional story told by the ‘frat house’ movies, where fraternities are for out of control drinking, and sororities are for pillow fights.
Of course, that stereotype has NEVER been particularly true, but over the past few decades since I have been out of college apparently the trend has been that more and more young women are doing more of the heavy drinking. From a recent NIH study:
guys tend to drink more often than ladies, results suggest that women are significantly more likely to binge drink, or have more than eight drinks in a night.
The study also cites an earlier NIH journal article that looked at drinking habits from 1976 – 2006, and found:
Risk for binge drinking increased among 21–23 year old women, with college women outpacing non-students in this age range. Trends also indicate that no reduction in binge drinking occurred for college men.
It is worth noting that during the first decade of the study period, the drinking age moved from 18-21 across much of the country, which might partially explain why significant reductions “in relative risk for binge drinking over time were observed for 12–20 year old males, but no changes were observed for females in this age range.”
I say ‘partially’ because of note is that in spite of the drinking age changes there was no drop in binge drinking in under-20 age women! This indicates that the actual level has increased of young women obtaining and drinking illegally while it has dropped for young men.
The dangers of binge drinking in general include risk of injury such as hypothermia and broken bones due to lower levels of sensation; failure to complete school or other responsibilities; poor decision-making such as driving drunk; alcohol poisoning and other alcohol abuse effects; and impacts on brain development.
For young women there are two additional dangers: the obvious risk of pregnancy, sexual abuse or injury due to impaired judgment or inability to demonstrate non-consent; and more recent studies show a linkage between heavy drinking at a younger age and future development of breast cancer.
Simply stated, the impact of binge drinking can be lethal, so it is something you simply MUST discuss with your kids. And further, the old stereotype that binge drinking is a male activity is more than flawed – it is wrong; girls are more likely to binge drink than boys … so get informed and make sure THEY know how to keep safe and make good choices.