Entries in binge drinking (7)


Binge Drinking College Students Report Being Happier

Hemera/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- The negative effects of binge drinking are well-known, which makes the findings of new research released on Monday linking binge drinking and reported happiness in college students troubling to many health experts.

The survey of 1,595 undergraduate students revealed binge drinking students report being happier than their non-binge drinking peers.  The results were released Monday morning at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver.

Specifically, the survey revealed that happiness was directly related to “status” -- with wealthy, white, male, heterosexual and/or Greek-affiliated students being happier than “lower status” students.

However, in “lower status” students -- in other words, less wealthy, female, non-white, homosexual, and/or non-Greek affiliated students -- those who binge drink report levels of social satisfaction that are comparable to their high status counterparts.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than four drinks per session for females and consuming more than five drinks per session for males.

“Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for higher social status in college and is correspondingly related to greater social satisfaction,” writes Carolyn Hsu, lead author on the study and chair of Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University.

In other words, binge drinking to “fit in” may actually lead to increased happiness -- a phenomenon that does not appear to have gone unnoticed by the alcohol industry.

“The insight that people drink to attain social status is not [new],” says David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “Alcohol marketers intentionally market social aspirations -- for example, an ad for Johnnie Walker from the 1990s had the bottle suspended from wires with other objects floating around it, like a mobile -- and the tag-line was ‘Upwardly mobile.’”

While upward mobility through binge drinking may help lower status students attain happiness, drinking may also be necessary to help higher status students maintain happiness.  Another finding in the study is that high status students who do not binge drink report lower levels of social satisfaction than their binge drinking, high status peers.

“Binge drinking may also be a prerequisite for receiving the full benefits of high status group membership,” writes Hsu.

The association between binge drinking and social happiness among both high- and low-status students is a link that doctors find treacherous.

“I find the overall information to be very sad,” says Dr. Edwin Salsitz, chair of the Education and Program Committee of the New York Society of Addiction Medicine.  “Binge drinking is dangerous on many different levels, yet these students seem to derive benefits from this behavior.”

Other experts suggest these findings must be interpreted with caution.

“Since [the study] is descriptive and not experimental, the two end points may not be linked,” says Dr. Fulton T. Crews, director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  “It is possible drinking reflects satisfaction for some, [but] changes mood, creating dissatisfaction for others.”

Other doctors suggest that the associations may not be causal at all -- in other words, happier students and binge drinking might just happen to appear together, without one influencing the other.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Elderly Binge Drinkers Face Higher Risk of Cognitive Decline

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) -- Women have been told for years that a glass of wine a day could actually improve their health, because it's good for the heart and brain. But researchers in San Francisco warned Wednesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Canada that elderly women who drink moderately could be at increased risk for decline in brain function.

The researchers said that adults older than 65 who reported heavy drinking at least twice each month more than doubled their likelihood to suffer loss of memory and brain function. Consuming four or more alcoholic beverages at a time was considered in the study as heavy binge drinking.

So how much alcohol should a woman be drinking?
"As always, the key is moderation or one drink a day for women be it wine, beer or spirit. It lowers risk of heart disease and stroke.  And it helps protect your brain from mental decline," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

But, Dr. Besser cautions, "women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant shouldn't drink. And women at high risk for breast cancer should also think twice. Your risk goes up 10 percent if you have a daily drink. But otherwise, drink up -- a little."

Tina Hoang, the study's lead author and clinical research coordinator at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center explained why alcohol consumption in late-life may not be beneficial for cognitive function in older women.

"It may be that the brains of oldest old adults are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, but it is also possible that factors associated with changing alcohol use related to coping or loss could be involved," Hoang said. "Clinicians should carefully assess their older patients for both how much they drink and any changes in patterns of alcohol use."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Binge-Drinking Teenage Girls Can Black Out, Get Into Trouble

File photo. Monkey Business/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After a few too many drinks, Holley, once a teenage binge drinker, was barreling down a highway at 90 miles per hour and running red lights. She said she didn't remember doing it until she saw herself on film.

Holley's exploits are featured in the documentary Faded: Girls & Binge Drinking, a movie about teenage girls who drink heavily because they feel enormous peer pressure to fit in. It offers a sobering message for unsuspecting parents and for teenage girls.

According to several surveys, an estimated one in four teen girls don't just drink, they binge, meaning five or more drinks in one sitting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 90 percent of alcohol consumed by youths is through binge drinking.

Rebeccah Thomas said she had no clue her 17-year-old daughter Erin was secretly binge drinking, until one night Erin wound up at a party with older boys that she didn't know well and landed in a police station.

"I thought I'll just take a couple drinks, I'll relax, I'll get to know these people, but then it became one or two beers and that turned into I'll take another shot and another shot," Erin Thomas said. "I probably consumed about four beers and I want to say 10-13 shots."

With all that alcohol in her system, Thomas said she passed out. But that night she got into a car with her boyfriend, who was busted for drinking after being pulled over, and Thomas was taken into custody by police. Her mother Rebeccah got a heart-stopping phone call from a police officer.

"At first the officer said, 'Are you Rebeccah Thomas and is your daughter Erin Thomas?' I just thought, 'Oh my gosh is she dead?' The worst, that's where your head is. I was just panicked," she said.

Often binge drinkers aren't the college campus misfits. They are just as likely to be "good girls," who are under enormous pressure to fit in. Erin Thomas said she first began lying to her mother when she was in the eighth grade.

"It was about me wanting to make a decision and knowing that I wasn't going to be able to do anything unless I did it behind her back," she said. "I think one of the main things that I struggled with is trying to be independent at a young age."

Underage bingers will often secretly "pre-game," pounding back large quantities of alcohol before their school dance or a big game, where alcohol is strictly banned.

"You're encouraging each other, 'just do it, just, fast, just, here-and telling each other tips on how to drink it faster, so you don't taste it,'" Holley said.

Alcohol mixed with wild partying is featured in several teen movies, including the American Pie series, Superbad, Mean Girls, and more recently, Project X -- Hollywood's take on a high school party run amok.

For girls, alcohol has the added danger of giving them courage to act out sexually, making them more vulnerable, and then providing an excuse for risky behavior the morning after.

During her 40 years as a pediatric trauma nurse at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Ore., Shelley Campbell said she has treated all sorts of ghastly consequences.

"About three-fourths of the injuries, all injuries [related to] falling, tripping over a curb, had alcohol on board," she said. "Or people heard there was a party, this happens frequently, and show up, and they can't get rid of them, and so we got knives pulled, we've got guns pulled, and then we have violence."

Just this month, a high school student was shot and killed at a Project X copycat party in Houston.

But beyond getting injured, a new study from Stanford University shows that teen girls are more likely than boys to physically damage their brains from binge drinking because they weigh less and their livers process alcohol differently. Brain scans conducted on intoxicated teenage girls have shown less activity in the areas of memory and spatial awareness.

As the documentary Faded showed, binge drinking can start young, which is why Campbell talks about the dangers of alcohol with middle schoolers, before puberty, and the anxiety that comes with it, hits.

Girls Inc., a non-profit organization that works with local communities to empower young girls, also has an outreach program in Portland, where they target 12-year-olds with exercises designed to prepare them for the inevitable temptations in their teenage years, including partying, boys and drinking.

A person is five times less likely to abuse alcohol as an adult if she can just delay drinking until after age 15, according to the National Institute of Health.

Looking back, Holley, who is now 28, said that perhaps the best prevention for binge drinking is helping a young girl beat back her escalating insecurities.

"I'd tell her that she's beautiful, and she's capable of doing whatever she wants to do, and I don't think I knew that, that I could be cool without it," Holley said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CDC: Millions of Americans Are Binge Drinkers

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- America has a binge drinking problem, according to a new government report.

More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink an average of four times each month, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency notes that the majority of people who binge drink are not alcoholics, but the trend is alarming because of the number of serious problems that can result from people having too much alcohol, such as car accidents, violence and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

The CDC reports that too much drinking results in 80,000 deaths each year in the U.S., and cost the country more than $223.5 billion in 2006.

The agency defines binge drinking as women having four or more drinks in a sitting and men drinking five or more, but the definition of binge drinking can vary. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the same amount of alcohol must be consumed in two hours or less to qualify as binge drinking, an amount that would put a person’s blood alcohol level above the legal driving limit.

According to the CDC’s report, binge drinking is more common among young adults ages 18 to 34 and among wealthier Americans, those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more. But binge drinkers age 65 and older reported drinking more in one sitting, and people with an annual income of less than $25,000 per household drank the largest number of drinks per sitting -- about eight or nine at a time.

The data in the CDC’s report came from a 2010 report of an ongoing telephone health survey and analyzed responses of nearly 500,000 Americans to questions about their alcohol habits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Binge Drinking Teen Girls, Not Boys, Have Bad Spatial Memory

Polka Dot Images/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Binge drinking is known to have a negative impact on a teen's working memory -- the kind that allows you to use a map, do math calculations, or perform complex sports plays.

But how does binge drinking's effects differ when compared amongst girls and boys?

Researchers at San Diego State University sought to answer this very question by examining how teenagers' brains reacted to various tests.  They gave attention and memory tests to 40 self-reported binge drinkers and 55 non-drinkers, all between the ages of 16 and 19, while they were in a brain scanner.

The authors of the study, published Friday in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that binge drinking girls had less activation of certain areas of the brain and performed worse on attention and memory tasks compared with non-drinking girls.

On the other hand, binge-drinking boys actually had more brain activation and did better on the task involving spatial memory than non-drinking boys.

The authors conclude that "women may be more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of heavy alcohol use during adolescence, while men may be more resilient to the deleterious effects of binge drinking."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Binge Drinking Seen as No Big Deal to Teens

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new study released Wednesday, many teens don't consider binge drinking a big deal.

The study, which appears on The Partnership at, found that close to half -- 45 percent -- of the over 2,500 teens who were surveyed did not see a "great risk" in drinking heavily on a daily basis.

Moreover, the survey found that the average age when kids had their first alcoholic drink was 14.

The study also noted a recent marked increase in teen use of marijuana and ecstasy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Kudzu Extract Decreases Binge Drinking

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The extract of the kudzu root was already known to be helpful in treating alcohol abuse, but now a study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests it can be used to decrease binge drinking.  

Twelve men were given either kudzu extract or a placebo for nine days, then they were given a set amount of alcohol to drink. Those who had taken the kudzu extract had increased heart rate, elevated blood alcohol levels, and reported greater levels of dizziness compared to those who had taken the placebo.  

The authors don't know why the kudzu caused blood alcohol levels to rise, but they think they've found out why people drink less after taking kudzu. They may feel the effects of the alcohol more quickly. In other words, getting drunk faster may actually reduce how much you end up drinking-- a conclusion even the authors admit is " counter-intuitive."

Still, they say kudzu extract could help manage binge drinking, which could  promote complete alcohol withdrawal along with other treatments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio