What Every Parent Should Know About College Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is one of the most serious problems on college campuses today. Parents should be talking to their teens about it long before they send them off to college.
What Is Binge Drinking?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking, or heavy episodic drinking, is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. This equates to:
It should be noted, however, that the volumes above are general. The size of the drink and body weight of the drinker are not taken into consideration in this definition. The assumption here is that drinking occurs within a short period of time (a few hours or less) and leads to alcohol intoxication.
Consequences of Binge Drinking
Alcohol poisoning—a severe and potentially fatal physical reaction to an alcohol overdose—is the most serious consequence of binge drinking. When a person drinks excessive amounts of alcohol within a short period of time, the brain is deprived of oxygen. In response to the overdose of alcohol and the lack of oxygen, the brain eventually shuts down the functions that regulate heart rate and breathing.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
If You Suspect Alcohol Poisoning
If you suspect alcohol poisoning, don’t worry that the person may be offended or embarrassed when he or she sobers up. Your decision to help may save the person’s life.
Other Health and Social Consequences
Binge drinking can not only lead to alcohol overdose (poisoning), but also to drunk driving, accidents, poor school performance, risky sexual activity, property damage, illicit drug use, and even death.
Furthermore, studies suggest that heavy drinking in adolescence is strongly associated with heavy drinking in young adult life as well. Rather than “growing out” of binge drinking behavior, many young persons “grow into” a pattern of alcohol dependence or abuse.
What Can a Parent Do?
Be Aware of Risk Factors
Binge drinking is influenced by a number of social factors and marketing forces in the college community. Parents should be aware of these factors, which include:
Establish Open Communication With Your Child
Ideally, you should begin talking to your children about the dangers of alcohol at a young age. Here are some tips that can help you establish more open communication:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Alberta Health Services
Binge drinking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm. Updated December 17, 2010. Accessed August 15, 2012.
Binge drinking on college campuses. Center for Science in the Public Interest website. Available at: http://www.cspinet.org/booze/collfact1.htm. Published December 2008. Accessed August 15, 2012.
Facts about alcohol poisoning. College Drinking Prevention website. Available at: http://www.college.... Reviewed July 11, 2007. Accessed August 15, 2012.
McCarty CA, Ebel BE, Garrison MM, DiGiuseppe DL, Christakis DA, Rivara FP. Continuity of binge and harmful drinking from late adolescence to early adulthood. Pediatrics. 2004 Sep;114(3):714-9.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Parent Handbook for Talking with Teens About Alcohol. Mothers Against Drunk Driving website. Available at: http://support.madd.org/docs/madd_handbook_email.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed August 15, 2012.
The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. The Bacchus Network website. Available at: http://www.bacchusnetwork.org/poisoning-signs-symptoms.html. Accessed August 15, 2012.
Youth drinking: risk factors and consequences. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa37.htm. Published July 1997. Accessed August 15, 2012.
Last reviewed August 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD