What Every Parent Should Know About College Binge Drinking

IMAGE 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:
  • Five or more drinks in about 2 hours for males
  • Four or more drinks in about 2 hours for females
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

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:
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Seizures
If You Suspect Alcohol PoisoningIf you suspect alcohol poisoning, don’t worry that the person may be offended or embarrassed when they sober up. Your decision to help may save the person’s life.If you suspect alcohol poisoning, don’t worry that the person may be offended or embarrassed when they sober up. Your decision to help may save the person’s life.
  • Call emergency medical services immediately. If you are near a hospital and have not been drinking, take the person to the emergency room right away.
  • Turn the person on their side to prevent choking in case of vomiting.
  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Pay close attention to the person’s breathing. If it stops, administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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.

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